Seven Sacred Books that have changed my life – part 4

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“The only thing ever standing between you and your practice is your mind.”

I love this book, and I talk about it all the time, even two years after reading it. The reason is simple: it changed my life. When I first came across this book in August 2012* I had a non-existent home practice. I loved yoga, I had enough space and time, I wanted to do yoga at home – but I still wasn’t doing it.

From the first chapter, I was hooked.

40 days quote

You want a home yoga practice, but you don’t have one. Why is that? Let me guess. Is it because you think you don’t have enough time or space, the people in your life don’t support you, you lack confidence, you don’t know what to do or you feel guilty about spending time doing something just for yourself? Join the club. Most of us use these things as reasons for not having a daily yoga practice, including me.

Forty Days of Yoga teaches us that they are not reasons, they are excuses, and those excuses are stopping us from having the kind of yoga practice that we so desperately want and need.

Using worksheets, Kara-Leah takes us through our jungle psyche, turning over rocks, brush-cutting and mowing the tangled garden of our minds, until finally, there is space to see. As you can imagine, this process unearthed some curious and surprising realizations for me.

I learned these things about myself:

  • Yoga and I have a 30+ year history. I first started doing yoga with my mother when I was six.
  • The only times I had managed to maintain a regular home practice were the times when I was pregnant.
  • I believed that I lacked discipline and commitment. One of the worksheets had me writing a list of successes I had achieved in my life and the personal attributes I used to achieve them. Guess what? Discipline and commitment featured strongly in just about all of them. I just hadn’t applied them to this area of my life. Yet.
  • I felt that I needed a block of uninterrupted time in which to practice yoga, rare with a preschooler at home with me (what I found in practice was that my four year old daughter came and did yoga with me. And if she didn’t feel like it, she would go off and do her own thing).
  • I felt that my family would not be supportive of my yoga practice, that they didn’t want me to do anything for myself (what I found in practice is that my family loved that I was doing yoga every day, and would check to see if I had done my practice that day. They turned out to be my biggest support group).
  • And here was the killer: I felt that time spent doing yoga was unproductive, meaning that nothing tangible was achieved, nobody benefited from it except for me, and doing yoga didn’t earn me any money (or bring me closer to a place where I would earn money, like studying for example). Another name for this is guilt. Beware folks, it’s insidious.

I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I decided that I would do my own 40 days of yoga.

I made a Forty Days of Yoga Facebook group and invited supportive friends to join. And because the book said that it would help to make a public declaration of my intention, I decided to blog through the process. I wasn’t nervous or worried—I knew I could do it, because I have commitment and discipline in spades people, in spades!

That was November 2012.

Two years later, and after 32 years of yoga, I now have a daily practice.

In the process of turning up to the mat every day, whether I thought I wanted to or not, not only did I improve my yoga practice, my strength, flexibility and fitness, I understood myself better. I listened to all the self talk that would go on in my mind, the talk about how selfish I was, how self-indulgent to be doing things that I like to do, like yoga (and writing!), while other people are forced to live lives of misery and drudgery.

On the days that my thoughts would wander down these paths, I would go back to the tools that Forty Days of Yoga gave me. One of these tools is preparing a list of:

Very Important Reasons Why I Want to Have a Regular Yoga Practice.

Discipline: because when I am disciplined, I will achieve much more with my time and energy. I will feel worthy.

Peace: when I am peaceful, I feel more able to cope with life.

Flow: when I am flowing, I feel love and trust in abundance.

Presence: when I am present, I feel alive, alert, calm and wise.

And I would say to myself:

I love to do yoga. I love everything about it.

I love to write. I love everything about it.

I am a better, more disciplined, peaceful, flowing, present person when I do yoga and write.

I have used the 40 day process many times since then. I have done 40 days of writing, 40 days of meditation and I do 40 days of yoga when I really want to drill down and work on a particular area, like the heart and throat yoga that I have recently been doing. Whenever I hear my mind say something like:

You don’t have the discipline to do…
That is a very big undertaking – too big for you.
Your family won’t support you, you won’t earn any money from it…

Don’t you think you’re a bit selfish and indulgent?

Other people are out there slaving and suffering and you want to… write, do yoga, meditate…fill in the gap as you please…

As soon as I hear that broken old record whirring its whining circuit through my brain, I say Hang on a minute! That is complete and utter bullshit. The reason I know it’s bullshit is because I have just done 40 days of yoga, and you said exactly the same thing to me when I wanted to have a daily yoga practice. I have a daily yoga practice now, and you were wrong about that, and I bet you are wrong about this as well.

That kind of talk is ego talk, self-destructive and boring as bat shit – and I continue to prove it wrong every day. Doing what we love and what nourishes our soul, is not wrong, or self-indulgent or unproductive. I know that, because the process of reading 40 days of yoga, and then doing 40 days of yoga not only gave me a daily yoga practice, but it has given me the tools to live an honest and authentic life.

It has given me the skills to navigate my own psyche and to trump my ego, and for those reasons, Forty Days of Yoga -Breaking down the barriers to a home practice has made it on to my Seven Sacred Books that have changed my life series.

* I came across this book when I received an email from Kara-Leah as a subscriber to her website The Yoga LunchBox (I had literally only joined days before) asking for people to act as beta readers for a book that she was writing on creating and maintaining a home yoga practice. I wanted a home practice more than anything, I enjoy the process of editing and feedback – so I held my breath, jumped into the deep end and replied yes! to the email. The rest is history 🙂 Just so you know, I never receive any payment for anything I recommend on this blog – I just like to share with you the things that have made a difference to me.

If you are a yoga newbie – you want yoga to be a part of your life but you just don’t know where to start – Kara-Leah Grant has just released her second book, and I just know that it’s going to help you out:

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7 comments

  1. This might be the right time for me to read this, thank you for bringing this book/idea to my mind again Sara. Sounds like something that would open many doors 🙂 Which book should I read….40 days or No more excuses?? opinion???

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  2. Hey Shana, so lovely to read you here 🙂 Hmmm! I actually think they would both be useful for you – definitely Forty Days, but also No more excuses because it will help you deepen your understanding of yoga. Kara-Leah actually offers both of them as a combo package – click on the No Excuses picture at the bottom of the page. If you were to pick just one…probably Forty Days xo Good luck!

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  3. I totally understand the feeling of being the flow.. For me I do Qi Gong practice.. so although not stretching as much… The energy and peace is felt….
    Stay in the Flow Sara.. Loved your post..
    Sue

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  4. The thing about my regular yoga practice– it opens me up to who I really am. Without yoga, I’d have to work a lot harder at discovering myself. Each time I roll out my mat, I feel like I’ve come home, and that can be while literally in my home for self practice, or somewhere else taking class…yoga brings me home. Thanks for the book rec…it sounds like there’s some juicy morsels in there to absorb.

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