Only one day off a week? Is this negotiable?

As I type this post from a hotel room bed, I’m thinking about when I’ll get my practice in each day of this hectic week. And as I think about that, I find myself daydreaming about my ideal practicing conditions:

  • Room temperature around 84 or 85 degrees
  • A time slot of two hours to practice
  • Start time around 1 p.m.
  • A clean, bright studio with large windows — a skylight, even.
  • Hardwood floors

Laughable, right? I have these conditions on precisely zero days a week — and when I’m traveling for work, as I am now, or working particularly long days, or on vacation, it gets even trickier. Who lives in their ideal world, anyway?

But I am trying really hard to maintain the traditional Ashtanga lifestyle of upholding all my societal duties — aka, in Indian terms, staying a “householder” rather than withdrawing from society — while still getting on the mat six days a week. So what that ideal practice list turns into is the following.

Be content with less external heat.
My little room heater typically only climbs to 76 or 77 degrees in the morning — and the winter chills haven’t even hit Michigan yet. So I settle for less external heat and let my breathing practice (ujjayi breath) and my bandhas (energy locks) take me the rest of the way. I love the detoxifying feeling of the hot, sweaty practice you can get when practicing in a studio surrounded by the body heat of other yogis — but I find contentment in the heat I do build up in my home practice.

Be content with less time.
If I have an hour, I practice for an hour. I don’t beat up on myself for it. Weekends are generally the easiest time for me to fit in a longer practice, so I try to have at least one long practice (maybe an hour and 45 minutes) once a week and do what I can the other days.

Float my rest day.
The traditional rest day in the Ashtanga vinyasa system is Saturday. Since weekends are prime time for me to practice, I find the most packed day of my week and use that as my rest day. So tomorrow, I’ll be traveling back home and will likely be getting in around 8 p.m. I’ll use tomorrow as my rest day and practice on Saturday.

Float my moon days.
I try not to do this because I like the idea of trying to sync your energy with the lunar cycle, but sometimes, if it will really make a difference in my schedule, I take rest not on the moon day itself, but on the day before or after.

Suck it up and wake up earlier.
I love this Neil Gaiman quote I saw in a recent Confluence Countdown blog post:  “I am not a morning person in the exact same sense that I am not a fruit bat.” That’s ME. It really is. I am convinced I have circadian rhythm sleep disorder. I work best between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. (probably 95 percent of my body posts, including this one, was written during that timeframe). My body and my mind have a visceral aversion to mornings, etc. etc. But yes, yes, this practice teaches us discipline and yes, I just try to suck it up these days and wake up earlier.

On this point about waking up earlier, check out the AY:A2 blog post for tips on how to wake up for yoga. It contains excellent tips — and if you live in a cold climate like I do and have an aversion to that ice cold feeling in the morning, then the blog post advice is invaluable. Some of the most dedicated Ashtanga practitioners get up at 4 a.m. My goals right now are less intense — getting up around 6:30 a.m. or 6:45 a.m. Baby steps.

Be content with the space you have.
We rearranged the coffee table in our small apartment to clear a space in the middle of the living room so that I didn’t have to move furniture every time I practice. I roll out my mat and don’t even think about how I don’t like practicing on carpet or how I don’t like practicing with stuff (couch, guitars, etc.) around me. I just practice, focusing on how I’m grateful to be able to practice at all.

It is so much work to get to the mat six days a week, but in the short time I’ve been able to maintain it, the effects have been noticeable and worth the trouble.

So that’s what I do. How about you?

(Photo: My room heater.)  

© and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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4 thoughts on “Only one day off a week? Is this negotiable?

  1. Can I quibble with one of the linked-to “tips on getting up”? Skip dinner? Really? That sounds akin to saying: Don’t worry about providing your body with any fuel before asking it to perform at a high level for 1:20. Sounds like a recipe for a wretched practice to me.

    • A valid quibble. But have you ever tried it? I don’t fast, but the yogis I know who do 7-day fasts every year say that the practices they have during fasts — contrary to what one might think — are some of their best. Lighter, more liberating.

      Theravada Buddhist monks only eat one meal a day, before noon.

      I sort of feel that one of the three meals Americans typically eat (we’ll look past the Tace Bell fourth meal for this argument) is unnecessary — the mind wanting it rather than the body needing it.

      I don’t know, Steve — should we both try it one day and test it out?

      • The no wheat diet isn’t enough for you? :)

        I’m probably really reacting to the dictate of it all: No caffeine after 2; no alcohol, no, no no.

        That said… there’s this whole “no wheat” diet I’m on. But I’m sure not for ever.

        I do still want to live my life, ya know?

  2. Hi Yogarose, I’ve been attempting to practice 6 days a week since August. It is both liberating and totally frustrating. You didn’t mention ladies’ holiday, which can give you more days off. I have mixed feelings about the whole idea but in the light of a 6 day per week practice, suddenly the extra day or two off to heal sore muscles doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. And the sore muscles are the problem as I learn to balance effort and non-attachment. So far I’m better at the former and more or less suck at the latter. I am very attached to the poses I’m working on. So I keep overdoing it. My body is teaching me that this is not going to fly so well, and that I must go slower, easier, softer.
    I find skipping dinner is a beautiful thing for my practice, but difficult to manage given a householder’s responsibilities for preparing meals. So dinner is getting earlier and smaller. I’m sure I could live off of 2 meals and get plenty of calories and nutrition. As I get more experienced (read older :)) my body seems to require fewer calories, much to my dismay.

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