#Mood: How to set intentions to empower your daily home yoga practice

me practicing out on my terrace; East Village nyc

Human beings have an awesome capacity to over-think and under-feel. Coming onto the mat is an opportunity to reconnect with our whole selves… if we’re not too busy overthinking all the reasons we don’t feel like practicing.

Over a lifetime of daily practice sessions, I’ve become steady and focused in my approach to yoga at home. I practice pranayama, seated meditation, Ashtanga Second Series, Iyengar yoga, Rocket Vinyasa and my own creative explorations of asana for at least 4–5 hours of solo, daily time on my own mat at home.

You don’t have to do all that, obviously, I do because I love it and yoga is my life’s work. But if daily yoga practice has ever been a challenge for you, here are guidelines I’ve developed through my lifetime of personal experience and 16 years of teaching.

Our task as men is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls.

— Albert Camus, The Almond Trees

The mood you begin with will determine the direction of your practice.

Feeling good:

Sometimes the body wakes happily, looking forward to the day, carrying the joyful vibrancy of one who is well cared for. These are days when the mind (it always matches the body) is full of ideas, excitement, new directions to take and avenues to explore.

This feels like creative energy and it can be valuable to have a notebook by your mat so you can quickly note anything important. That releases the mind from fixating on the not-present, and allows you to first focus on your practice and then, later with a focused mind and dedicated time, work with the creative ideas.

Practicing on these days is counterintuitively difficult — the poses come easily, and it is easy to mistake the physical fluency as an invitation for the mind to be elsewhere: dreaming, desiring, released from a demanding present and free to think of all the things you are not doing.

Sometimes you don’t feel like practicing on these days because you already “feel good” and want to get right to work. You’ll need to remember that it’s worth practicing not because you need to “feel better”, but because the practice will refine your mental direction and purpose. Your body will receive the health benefits of moving through the challenging postures, and it may be a great day to challenge yourself with aspects of the work that had been previously out of reach. It could be a new posture, a re-imagining of sequence, a different entrance into a known pose. Your body can be creative, expressing itself, while the mind stays engaged in the present, where the body lives.

Unmotivated:

These are the days you don’t feel like practicing because you’re tired, or heavy, or sluggish, or not interested in practicing because you’re more interested in laying in bed debating whether you should or should not practice. The answer to this is: you should always practice. You will never regret a practice, and once you remove the energy from debating whether or not to do something good for yourself, you can devote that energy to actually doing good for yourself. Keep it simple; don’t question the habit when you need it most.

On days you absolutely cannot work or motivate yourself for yourself, do it for the people you love. The strength, openness, discipline, and courage that that it take to practice yoga daily is an inspiration in itself.

There is also the ripple effect: your health and well being will radiate positive to everyone in your radius. And today, the radius is infinite: show your live, share your insight, celebrate your process on social media. We could use more conscious content online.

Emotional:

For me, these are the toughest days to feel the body and hear the breath. Regardless of valence — I could be elated, or stressed, or sad — my mind feels full of the feeling and totally committed to thinking about it instead of anything else: the postures, the breath work, the beauty of the present moment.

On positive emotions, we tend to not work as hard, preferring to enjoy the feeling, while negative emotions can be more inspiring: no one wants to feel stuck in the terrible. But the purpose of practice is to come into a mindset of clarity, and equanimity, rather than sticking to our like and avoiding our dislikes. Regardless of whether we like an emotion or the circumstances that created it, we learn to center ourselves, to see clearly, to witness rather than be helplessly entrenched.

Fundamentally, if you are feeling:

confused/conflicted

your practice intention is clarity

dull

your practice intention is alert and aware

frantic

your practice intention is calm

distracted

your practice intention is to steady the breath.

We are always aiming for Sattva: a state of clarity.

The purpose of the practice is not to wander your mind into the external circumstances of your life (you can go for a long walk if you need to wander), but to feel deeply and honestly into your inner life. Creating strength, space, and alignment within will translate directly into your external life as you step off the mat.

This is why we step onto the mat: to step off the mat feeling like the best person you could be that day. The physical postures are an invitation to connect with yuor breath, to step out of the mind’s dreaming, and become alert but not alarmed, curious but not distracted, calm but energized.

It isn’t easy, and in fact, if it feels easy, you’re probably missing out on the magic of the yoga.

Wishing you good luck! And more importantly: good work!

me upside down at home; East Village nyc

unconventional + intellectual | yogi | artist | duke alum | east village nyc | teaching: megnapaula.com and philosophy: consciousandcurious.com

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