Today marks for me 20 consecutive days of meditation, which also coincides with 20 days that I’ve been home from retreat in India. This is the biggest gift that I brought home with me. The power of ritual and a renewed and deeper focus to my own personal practice. The benefits have been amazing and profound. My first retreat in India in 2011 without a doubt took me to a new level in my Yoga and teaching, finally bringing focus to the importance of self-practice. This year, another enormous shift. Our retreat was scheduled around the Sattva Summit which brought people from all over the world to come and immerse themselves into this powerful practice. In the opening ceremony we were asked to connect with an intention for our week. Immediately the thought “raise my vibration” came to me. I also realized this intention was going to be much more meaningful than the one week of the summit, but rather a continued intention for me for the next few years. This is where the power of ritual comes in.
As we learn in the Sutras, tapas or discipline is an important part of practice. We also know this from life, if we want to create change we must put in the work. Improve our digestion? Have the discipline to say no to the foods we can’t process. Become stronger? Be consistent with our workouts. Improve our ability to sit and meditate? Then create the ritual to come to this space everyday. This is the only way this is going to happen. When we first discover the power and beauty of Yoga, it is often for us in the west, through our asana practice. Over time for many there is a natural evolution where the shifts we experience through our physical practice are just not enough anymore, we crave more. This is also the power of retreat, and fully immersing yourself into practice without external distractions or excuses. After 18 years of practicing asana, 10 years of deepening my studies, the time is now to take my practice to the next level. To raise my vibrations and welcome in my true dharma.
For the last 20 days, this is my ritual:
6am wake up (though I admit this week has been much closer to 6:30am). Make hot water and lemon and put the coffee on. Go to my alter which consists of sitting before the Ishta I brought home from India, Ma Durga. Lighting a candle and a stick of incense and repeating the Gayatri Mantra three times. From here I move into a few stretches, most generally downward dog, pigeon pose and butterfly and find my seat. 5-7 rounds of alternate nostril breathing, 3 minutes of breath of fire and then I sit in stillness. Quieting my mind, listening to my breath and settling in following the waves of prana in my body and spine. I continue to sit until I feel the state of dyana (meditative mind) happening and then I sit longer. I focus on my heart and I focus on gratitude (wise words from Anand at the Sattva Centre). I use the app Insight Timer to track my time, but I have stopped setting a time, instead I’m using my own internal clock to let me know when I am finished (20-30 minutes)
The other important element to my morning ritual is that I now dedicate until 8am to focus just on me. This includes not checking my emails or social media – which is huge for me, or getting involved in anything work related, even to do lists. After my meditation I prepare breakfast, pour my coffee and sit to read a Yoga text. The earlier I wake up the longer I have to read, but either way there is no longer any sacrifice to my time in meditation. I also love to read and used to leave it as a luxury for vacations or weekends if I had a spare moment which I never seemed to have, so the motivation to wake up for this time is pretty high.
From these last few weeks, I am significantly more grounded and focused and feel more accomplished by the work I’m able to complete each day. I am sleeping better, have less overall pain, I’m taking real breaks in the day to pause, reflect and breathe and I’m simply happier. I look forward to my mornings, even waking up at the same time on the weekends to have this time for myself. They say 40 days for real change to happen, and at this halfway point I’m already in awe. My question for you, what will it take to jump start your practice? What are you waiting for?