Do you ever leave the house to run an errand, and then about halfway down the road, you realize you turned the wrong way out of your neighborhood, as if you were going to work instead?
We all have our routines and ways of doing things. Usually, that is a very good thing. Practiced skills that show up automatically can save the day.
But sometimes auto-pilot gets in the way of growth and change. Sometimes we shuffle through life like a sleepwalking robot, unaware of what we’re doing until something or someone comes along to snap us into thought.
Perhaps that’s a yoga teacher asking, “Are you present?”
I see it all the time in class. So-and-so always takes that optional chaturanga. Mr. Man refuses to bend his knees in forward folds. Miss Bendy never misses an opportunity for a deeper backbend. Front-row dude insists on his front shin being parallel in pigeon, hips askew and all. Back-row lady simply cannot even attempt crow pose. Ever.
But what would happen if we paused to acknowledge the present moment and ask ourselves why, exactly, are we making that particular choice? If the answer is, “because that’s the way I’ve always done it,” well, sorry, but I think that’s a terrible reason.
Why? Because you're giving away all the good that can come from free will just for the comfort of habit.
I remember learning about samskaras during yoga teacher training - ingrained patterns that we repeat over and over until we become conditioned. We exhibit them off the mat as well, of course. Raise your hand if you share my samskara of being unable to resist rearranging the dishwasher!
So what would happen if we consciously chose to do things differently? Would there be a giant explosion? Would the world end? Nope.
We might see that our triceps remain toned with a few less chaturangas. We might find that our low back feels much better when we bend our knees. We may discover that when we engage instead of flop or go easy instead of forcing, our bodies finally figure out what the pose is actually supposed to do. We might just learn that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.
And I’m here to tell you that if you can get out of a rut in your practice, there’s hope off the mat as well. It’s all yoga, y’all!
As for me, I’m still working on that dishwasher thing. I'll let you know how that goes.
So next time you're on your mat, see if you can identify when you start to go on auto-pilot. What are your patterns? How can you break them? Share below!