This maybe should have been first. These posts were just about what I hear from people, and I often hear people tell me that they know they should do yoga, but they don’t have time and/or they are just too tired (see photo above an exhausted me trying to find the energy to practice!) I get it. I promise. None of us have enough time and energy…except some of us during COVID…Buuuut…to me, this might be a tie with “I’m not flexible enough” in terms of reasons why you absolutely should do yoga.
I will be calling you to task a little bit in this post, but it is with love because I believe that time spent practicing yoga, is time well worth finding. The way I see it, there are people who really, truly have practically no spare time and those who do, but maybe need to find some motivation and do some time management. Both groups would benefit by carving out ‘yoga time,’ and you may find that your energy increases as a result of that effort in time-finding.
Type I: The Truly Very Busy Human
I am not a parent. I cannot even begin to imaging how working parents do it or how parents that don’t work outside the home, but have a spouse and multiple children manage either. Parenting looks impossible. I get home from work and collapse most days, and the idea that another human might need me is exhausting to even think about. Now, with many of you home-schooling, it is even more crazy! This is to say that while I do not know what it is to be a parent, never mind a working one, especially one in a single-parent/earner household, I can at least try to empathize.
That is not to say that child-free people are not super busy. Maybe you work 60 hours a week. Maybe you work and spend your free time volunteering, renovating your house, taking care of a family member, at a second job, at school. Time is a resource that people with full-time jobs, people with kids and especially people with full-time jobs AND kids have in EXTREMELY short supply, and those precious minutes you do have are probably spent taking a few extra minutes in the shower, drinking a glass of wine or doing something else that requires minimal effort. I hear ya. I don’t even have a dog, and I know if you do, that is even MORE to do…hopefully walking the dog is relaxing. Maybe?
Buuuut….I will still counter that you NEED to take care of yourself, and only you can commit to carving out that time each day or each week where unless someone’s life is hanging in the balance, your phone can be ignored, no one will interrupt you, and you can pay attention to the person who still should be the most important person in your life: you. Self-care is always important and maybe now more than ever.
At the end of the day…or at the end of many days, weeks, months or even years that you have neglected yourself for your job, partner, and/or kids, the result may end up being total exhaustion, feelings of resentment, lower productivity, high stress, poor sleep, and less than perfect health.
Yes, you need to try to go on vacation to get away from work, but that is at best, what? Once a year? And how often since you had kids has it been child-free? My point is, finding 15 minutes a day or, better, an hour a day daily…ok three times a week…even one day a week should be a priority.
Yoga will not cure all of your ills, but for a person short on time, it can be super efficient. If you like a strenuous workout, you could take a vigorous class or two a week because you will still get relaxation and breathwork. If you don’t love to sweat, finding a more gentle class will still help keep your joints, back and muscle healthy, while allowing you to really focus on meditation and relaxation.
I have often said when starting a class that the students should try to leave their life at the door, off the mat. Giving yourself that one hour to just pay attention to your breath, mind and body and not think about a work project or what you are cooking for dinner or the fact that you forgot to bake something for tomorrow’s bake sale is good for your mental well being. The reality is, all of those thoughts and tasks will be there when you are done and, most of the time, they are not life or death.
I humbly, as a non-parent with (currently) only one job with regular hours (actually fewer hours due to COVID) will offer some suggestions to help you commit to finding the time for yoga. Before you roll your eyes at me, I have never been a parent, but I have almost always had more than one job and have often struggled for money. I have always been head of my own household with no one to help with food prep, laundry or paying bills. I have often left an office for a waitressing job, so I am not unfamiliar with being over-worked and feelings of total exhaustion. These are ideas that have worked for me or for friends and clients. Yoga is a great treatment for exhaustion. You may find energy you never had and you also may sleep better and feeling better in the morning.
Also, and this is key: this is NOT selfish. Taking time to do something for you, is important for you, yes, but it will also help you give what you need to all of those other people relying on you. Don’t let anyone let you feel guilty for taking time to take care of yourself, least of all you.
Type II: The Not-So-Busy Human
A lot of us are not nearly as busy as we sometimes claim. I am not going to classify this as people with or without kids, with or without full time jobs, with or without other obligations. If you look at your day or your week, how many hours do you spend looking at social media? How many hours do you spend watching tv or playing games? How many hours do you spend doing tasks that are really just excuses for doing something you really should be doing, like exercising? If they answer is zero, then you are the type I person I just talked about in the first section, but if the answer is an hour or more a day, you can find time for yoga, I promise.
It is very easy to maintain the status quo of NOT exercising or not practicing yoga or not taking time to breathe, meditate and relax, but at the end of the day, years of this will take its toll.
I moved and changed jobs a year ago. For the first three months of my job, I would come home emotionally drained. I was up at 5:30am and home at about 5pm at which point I just collapsed in front of the TV with my phone. Technically, I had plenty of time from 5pm till 10pm, but I didn’t have the energy nor the motivation to practice. I realized that I was not going to practice on my own, so I found a studio nearby, tried all of their classes and then decided on the class and teacher I liked. Twice a week I committed to going and once I got back in the habit, I felt great.
Many people need the structure of a class. Even I, a yoga teacher who has been practicing for years, do better when I have a set time and someone telling me what to do. If you can self-motivate, that is fantastic, but if not, you need to commit to a class. Now with so many studios offering classes on line (as I am), you don’t even need to leave your house!
If money is a factor, there are many free YouTube videos. If you are paying for classes, this may motivate you further. If you don’t have a lot of expendable income, see this as an investment in yourself and don’t waste it. Often times if you ay for a packet of classes, you spend less than per class. If you can afford that output, maybe it will help you stay motivated so as not to waste the money. Find a community center or community-based studio that offers less expensive classes. Some will let you volunteer time in exchange for classes; others offer reduced-rate classes. Yoga was never meant to be for the elite, and there are options available even if you have minimal means.
Maybe you are unemployed, socially isolated, bored, depressed. All of these factors can hinder you from practicing. You may have lots of time, but are not able to start churning those gears to develop a regular practice. An asana and meditation practice may actually help you with those problems, and the hardest part is simply stepping on the mat and doing it. Once you start, you may find it helps you focus, motivate, feel better. Time may not be your hurdle, but that doesn’t mean it is any easier to spend that time practicing yoga. When COVID first struck, I was amazed at how the whole day could go by without me really achieving anything. I had to change that and setting a morning routine, which included sun salutations and meditation really helped set the tone for the day.
Tips and Tricks for Finding or Making the Time:
- Find a class or two a week at a realistic time and commit to going. When was the last time you just skipped your child’s soccer practice or flute lesson? Or bailed on a client meeting? Your extra-curricular activities are important too. Can you time them so that while you are in yoga, junior is in Karate next door? Be creative.
- Get up 15 minutes early and start your day with 10 minutes of sun salutations and 5 minutes of meditation. I was the LAST person I thought could do this; I am the queen of the snooze button and bolting out the door coffee in hand, but I have managed to squeeze a 10-minute meditation in each morning. When everyone else is sleeping, can you steal this quiet time?
- If you are more an evening person, use the pre-dinner time for an intense practice or the pre-bedtime slot for a deep stretch, breathwork and meditation for 20 minutes. Can you sneak away? Is there time for kids to do homework, watch a show, have quiet time on their own? Can you set such a time? Maybe everyone has 30 minutes to do their own thing OR can you do yoga with your partner or teenager?
- Don’t go straight home. Sometimes going home after work is the kiss of death. Can you stop on your way home for a class? Or is there a lunchtime option? Can you go on the way to work? Is there an early class?
- Midday yoga? Now with many of us working from home, it may be easier to do a midday break for 30 minutes and get back to work in your yoga clothes than it was when you had to be at a workplace. Is there a Zoom class or YouTube video you can squeeze in?
- Pre-pay for the classes and don’t allow yourself to make excuses to skip.
- Set a time and put that in your calendar if you are going to do a class on your own time. Commit to yourself that you will do the class at the set time you have decided.
- Set a regular date with a friend, partner or family member to do the same class together whether in-person, virtual live or pre-recorded
- Set a schedule for the week for yourself for meditation, relaxation, stretching and more intense practice. Look at how you spend your days and your weeks. Decide how many hours a day or week you want to practice and commit to that goal.
- Decide what your goal is: weight loss, less stress, more flexibility, sleep better, be more patient…maybe more than one of these. Devise a plan that incorporates time to fit in practices to serves these needs be they daily or weekly.
- Put on the yoga clothes. Sometimes that is enough to get me going. If I’m working from home, I get up in the morning and immediately get dressed in my yoga clothes, even if I know I won’t practice till the afternoon. If I am at the office, I come home and change out of my work clothes into my yoga clothes. With that step out of the way, all I need to do is step on the mat or sit on the cushion and begin. It seems silly and really simple, but for me, it helps!
- Set up a reward system. I don’t let myself have my coffee till after my morning meditation. Maybe allow yourself a glass of wine only on the nights you did a one-hour vinyasa class. Perhaps you have a no TV rule until after yoga. Go with a friend to class and go to lunch after or do a Zoom class together and a video chat to catch up after. What is a reward you can give yourself that will keep you motivated?
- Post on social media. Do you love getting likes and comments? Public validation may motivate you. I love seeing my friends’ videos and photos of their practice and my fellow teachers sharing their classes. Maybe you mastered a new pose or found class or teacher you want to share with everyone. Maybe you got a quote from your guided meditation you want to share. We live in an Instaworld, and if a good post will motivate you, fine, but make sure you are NOT just posing for the post. Do your practice for you, and then if a post is what you need to commit to going or to get rewarded after, you will get no judgment from me!
Clearly, daily is the best, but it does not need to be all or nothing. Start with one hour a week or 15 minutes, five days a week. Know yourself and the time of day that is most realistic. If you know you HATE early mornings, aim for lunchtime or evening. If you know you are exhausted in the evening, try for the morning. Soon, hopefully, you will feel better and that time will be so special to you that you can’t imagine missing it, AND I would bet that you will find energy, patience and calm that you didn’t know you had as a result of a regular practice.
I find that when I do a practice at the end of a draining work day, while it is a struggle, I feel better for it. As I said, sometimes I put on my yoga clothes and then lie on my mat for 10 minutes before I find the energy, but once I do, I always feel better after even if I only do a short practice. Equally, I hate early mornings, but there was a time when that was my only time, so I got up and went to the gym before work and was amazed at how I tended to be LESS tired on those days than on the days that I did not exercise in the morning. I started a morning meditation practice when I had time earlier this year, and now I am able to a shorter one even on those days I have to get up and out early. I have made the time.
Find the method that will work for you. Commit to it. I can almost guarantee you will feel better, but it will take time. Commit to it for the long haul, and if you miss a day or two or even a week or two, forgive yourself. Be kind to yourself and get back in the habit.
Try it! Deal? Deal!
- Yoga Myths (and excuses) #1 & 2#: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga” and “I am not good at yoga”
- Yoga Myths (and excuses) #3: “I don’t like yoga”
- Yoga Myths (and excuses): #6 I am Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, etc., so I Can’t Practice Yoga
- Yoga Myths: #7 Yoga is Just Another Type of Exercise
- Yoga myths, excuses and questions: #8 Is Yoga an Example of Cultural Appropriation?
- Yoga Myths and Excuses: #9 Yoga and Pilates are for Women (and I’m a Man)