I practice yoga just about every day (by yoga, I mean some form of asana, pranayama, and meditation or a combination of). I gain joy from my practice as well as a host of mind-body benefits (clearer mind, more open body, quieter mind, etc. -- listing all the benefits would fill a whole blog post). When thinking about this, Yoga Sutra 1.12 -- abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah -- comes to mind. The basic translation of this sutra is that in order to reach state of yoga, we can use two tools -- 1. practice and 2. discipline.
Of course this brings about the chicken and the egg argument -- what comes first -- practice or discipline? Some say that you must have discipline in order to have a practice, yet the answer is just the opposite -- discipline is the result of practice, so practice comes first. Both are equally important, of course, but practice comes first. When you practice, things get in the way, and that's when discipline is needed. The discipline helps us to release what isn't serving us.
Early in my practice, I had to release the habit of going to bed late. If I did, my practice would suffer (in other words, I would roll over after the alarm went off and go back to sleep). Eventually, I was so linked to the pleasure of my regular yoga practice, that I dropped the habit of going to bed late. I also dropped the habit of snoozing excessively. I was linked to yoga (how convenient that among yoga's meaning is union and to link) and no longer linked with going to be late and snoozing. Just as Patanjali states in Yoga Sutras, my practice led to discipline.
I've maintained that discipline through the years to the point that practicing yoga has become akin to brushing my teeth. I don't really think about it in terms of my daily routine. Lately, the idea of ritual and routine has been coming into my consciousness quite a bit (in the books I read and the media I expose myself to) and it has me thinking about creating more rituals that serve me. Just before I sat down to write this blog post, I lit a candle. I got that idea from a great book I'm reading entitled 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women (by Gail McMeekin). Since I don't have any rituals around work -- other than recently using an egg timer to focus my attention on a project, I thought I'd give this one a try.
As I consider creating new rituals for myself (I'm thinking about creating a midday refresher ritual to perk up my energy), I found an excellent blog post on the Florian Yoga Companion entitled 3 Short Rituals a Day for a Happier You. How's that for timing? The post is excellent and offers up some wonderful options to help you form your own rituals. I also found a few other resources to help on the ritual creation quest:
I've heard of the wonderful ceremony that the Chinese perform prior to drinking tea, and I've often thought that the ritual must add a sacredness to the act of tea drinking. I'm an avid tea drinker myself, yet I am sadly without a tea ritual. There's a wonderful book entitled Tea Here Now: Relax and Rejuvenate With a Tea Lifestyle -- Rituals, Remedies, and Meditations. Sounds delightful, doesn't it? It's currently on its way to me from Amazon. In the meantime I've developed a little ritual of brewing up a cleansing drink (hot water with lemon) prior to my morning meditation and bringing it with me to my seat. I sit in silence for a bit as I slowly sip my warm drink. It's a nice way to prep for meditation.
If you're in a relationship and would like to strengthen it, there are many bonding rituals you can perform. Many take 10 minutes or less. Here's a great list of Tantric techniquess that are sure to fan the flames of intimacy. I'm familiar with the Muirs' work, and I'm a big fan of the 10-minute connect. Establishing a reconnection ritual with your partner when you both return home from a long day out of the house is a great way to transition from work to play -- and to establish that intimate connection with your partner after playing a work role all day.
Of course you can get creative and use your own tools to creative a meaninful or inspiring ritual for you. Maybe it's getting the funky, cool RescueGirl Yoga Deck and taking a break in the middle of the afternoon to flip through the deck and choose a brief practice for yourself (the awesome illustrations are bound to get your smiling if nothing else.). Or maybe it's spending 15 minutes each morning in front of an altar that you've decorated with sacred objects simply gazing at your beloved objects. Or you could set aside 10 minutes in the evening to light a candle, sit on a mountain of pillows and visualize what you're wanting to manifest in your life. It doesn't matter what the ritual is -- you simply have to find meaning in it and then practice it regularly. Fret not, discipline will come.
If you have any rituals that brighten your day, make your more productive, bring you joy, and/or add a little of the sacred to your day, I'd love to hear about them. Let's share!