I’ve gone through phases of squeezing in a practice twice a day to maybe once every few weeks, but, without fail, every time I return to my mat and start feeling the physical and mental benefits, I’m in disbelief that I’d abandoned something that makes me feel so good.
I often come across articles on how to stay diligent with your practice that say: Have good habits. Wake up early. Stay consistent. Make it a priority, etc. Uh yeah, I’m going to need something a little more concrete than that.
I figured out that the key to keeping diligent with my yoga practice, especially my self-practice while traveling and constantly changing scenery, is to find ways to get excited about it. So here are my tips to keep your practice and excitement to practice alive:
1. Make an adventure out of it
I get in the car, throw my mat in the back and drive to somewhere I’ve never been: a park, near a garden, the bank of a canyon, but usually near a body of water as I find it invites a sense of calm. By making a mission of my practice, it becomes a fun reward for setting off and discovering something new. Settling onto your mat in these places feels like a way of honoring and embracing little slices of the world that we sometimes walk right past — a grassy spot behind a barn, near some cool rock formations or under a tree that’s older than most people you know. Maybe grab a journal and see what comes through in your post-practice clarity.
If you’re looking for a quick jump off in the Waynesville area, check out the cemetery, one of the nooks in Vance Park, something along Pigeon River or head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
2. Get a playlist together
Am I looking for a pump me up power flow? Do I want something to quiet my mind while I relax into some restorative poses?
Putting together a playlist before I start helps me set the vibe for what my mind and body needs that day and is also a good way to time my self-practice. Hop on YouTube or Spotify and chose a pre-made playlist or use the opportunity to discover new music, artists or genres. I bounce between desert/psycadelic rock; Afro beats; Indian drumming and sitar; or Indonesian gamelan.
Sometimes you end up creating the ultimate zen zone and are ready for a nap, and other times you end up in a one-man dance party ready to slay the day.
A playlist is just one piece of ambiance you can set up for yourself. Light some candles or incense, dim the lights, pump up the volume — all these help set the mood around you and enhance your feeling of place.
3. Feel good in the clothes you’re practicing in (or wear none at all)
Have you ever bought a pair of yoga pants that make you feel all sucked in and supported? Or a top that adds a little pop of color to your look? It’s little things like these that get me excited to hit my mat. It’s not about looking sexy — it’s about feeling good in your own skin.
As a sun worshipper, I prefer a hot day in a bathing suit top and some linen pants — flippin’ my dog as a tanning tactic more than a yoga pose (who said you can’t multi-task during yoga).
4. Find a buddy and make plans for after yoga
Whether it’s getting to a studio or coming together for a self-practice, I find that making plans for after yoga makes sure I actually make it to my mat. Having a yoga buddy can keep you accountable if you’re looking for consistency in your practice and can also invite some fun. Maybe you want to sit on our porch and have a chat over tea, head over to your favorite local brewery for a cold brew or snack, have a picnic, get a couples’ massage, or better yet — maybe you and your friend decide to go on a yoga retreat together and make a fun trip out of it.
5. Find your mat + keep it in eyesight
I’ll practice in the sand, on the grass or a rug if I have to, but I’m a big fan of the feeling and smell of my mat (yeah, whatever, I like the smell of rubber and hope it never goes away).
For awhile I was using this old worn down mat that hadn’t withstood the test of extended backpacking trips — tossed in dirty bus storage and ripped up by cute dogs all eager to say “what up.” It had no grip or support and was really only great because it folded up so small. Then I made the switch to a Jade lightweight mat, which were the first green and non-toxic yoga mats on the market. No longer was I slipping around when I went on my hot yoga kick or feeling my bones touch the floor below my mat during savasana. By keeping it in eyesight, I’m more likely to roll er’ out and even just stretch a little bit.
When picking a mat that’s right for you, consider what you need. Do you travel and want something lightweight? Do you want something thicker to support you? Do your hands and feet tend to get really sweaty during your practice? Are you tall and need a longer mat? Ask yourself these questions and then head to somewhere like REI where you can actually touch the mat. You might come across great deals online but I wouldn’t purchase one unless I’ve put my hands on it and feel confident that it’s what I need.