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Life (and death) intervenes

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It’s striking me as moderately ironic that during this World Yoga Practice Month — WoYoPracMo for those of you who are just way cooler than I’ll ever be — that the daily practice should be so frequently disrupted. This time, it was death. My mother in law died on Saturday. Bless you, Delores, for everything you gave in life.

But the last couple of days has given me pause to reflect upon the issue — what other things interrupt our practice? I’m a very routine oriented person. Practice happens to me when I leverage my keister out of bed before the rest of the family and in peace and quiet, I find the mat. Alternatively, it happens when all members of the household, save me, have shuttled themselves off to work and school. Mess with that and my practice goes to hell.

Is there any reason I can’t practice with someone else in the house? Uhhhhhhhhh, no actually, there isn’t. Is there any reason why practice can’t take place later in the day? Uhhhhhhhhh, actually, there isn’t anything stopping me there either. In fact, there’s nothing in the universe stopping me from announcing to my very supportive family, “Excuse me, Momma is buggering off for an hour to her practice. Call me if the house is on fire.” The kidlet is old enough to fend for herself and she’d respect me carving out the hour. Ditto with the husband.

So, what’s the issue here? It’s habit. I have a morning yoga habit. I enjoy the solitude and the peace of the morning. It is deeply calming and very restful. It’s important enough to me to get up long before any sensible human would rise from bed, just so I can savour the beauty of the new day. It’s my time to putter before I have to answer to anyone. I love my morning practice. This is really an attachment issue with me. This is Raga — one of the kleshas, the things that clouds my mind and are the roots of my suffering — an attachment the familiar and pleasurable that keeps me from leaving my comfort zone and moving into more unfamiliar territory.

So when did my morning practice take on this new twist? I suspect it’s probably related to ego, in some respect. Getting up at 4:15 am to hit a yoga mat before you head off to work for 7:00 am? Now that’s bloody dedicated, isn’t it? That’s what you call proof positive that the yogini in question is one serious chickie-momma about this yoga stuff.

I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong about morning practices. In fact, there’s a lot of benefits to having one. For me, where it’s fallen off the rails, is when I cling to the MORNING part of morning practice. It’s when I start using the hour of practice as a means of separating myself from the common herd, from the “dabblers”. We’re now safely within the realm of ego gratification as opposed to yoga. When the discipline of practice starts bleeding off into a sense of smugness and self-righteousness and superiority, then I know I’m adding things to practice that don’t belong there.

There’s a good reason Yoga counsels us to cultivate both an abiding practice (Abhyasa) along with non-attachment (Vairagya). Practice alone without the conscious cultivation of its companion, non-attachment, is an excellent prescription for allowing ourselves to become insufferable, pompous asses of the first order.

I’m reminded of the more egregious practices of those who are highly and passionately committed to their own particular cause. I personally respect the right of everyone to make their decisions concerning food and how they chose to feed their families. Omnivore, vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist…it doesn’t matter to me. So I find it very discouraging when well-meaning but ultimately disrespectful people feel compelled to berate others about food choices. If diet is just more ammo to prop up the ego by lashing out at other people, I think it’s time to separate the food on the plate from the politics. When I start thinking along the lines of “my dietary group” are more ethical, sensible, responsible, pragmatic, than the “other dietary group”, it’s no longer about feeding my body’s needs. It’s about feeding my ego needs and making the “I”ness a little bigger. In the end, it’s not what we put into our mouths that makes us “unclean”. Too often, it’s the crap that comes of our mouth that’s the true source of our impurity.

For the most part, I plan to keep the morning practice. For a lot of reasons, it works for me. For one, it’s convenient and it works with the rest of my life quite nicely. But I think I’ll work on letting go of the more sanctimonious bits. It’s time to start divesting some of the ego issues from the mat. Vairagya — non-attachment — something that’s worth not holding onto.

Thanks for reading and Namaste,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

4 responses »

  1. I wish I had discipline to practice yoga at a regular time every day. I fit it in whenever I can! In the morning, after Hubby goes to work, at lunch time or after the family has gone to bed. The weekends are the hardest for me.

  2. Weekends are an issue here as well because “THEY” are home (and underfoot). I’m so spoiled with working shift work which often gives me time to myself during the week.

    That said, I believe we’re better off with 10 mins here and 20 mins there than no yoga at all.

  3. Another powerful piece. I loved “In the end, it’s not what we put into our mouths that makes us “unclean”. Too often, it’s the crap that comes of our mouth that’s the true source of our impurity.” This is so true and I encounter it a lot in the Yoga community. I too am attached to when and where I practice in my home–but I’m working on it. Thank you for the wise words.

  4. Thank you for your encouragement. I’m always left to wonder if I’m a bit of the mad aunt in the attic with my mutterings and mumblings. I enjoy the process of writing because I find it clears my mind and hones my perceptions on things. And I’m very grateful to learn that I am not “alone” in this process. Thanks again for your encouraging words.


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