Even yogis have bad moods. Just because we have a mindfulness practice doesn’t mean crappy stuff doesn’t happen. A lousy day at work. A breakup. An unsettling email. Or maybe someone steals your parking spot as you’re trying to make it to—of all things—a yoga class. And then suddenly, things feel terribly wrong. And, of course, sometimes nothing happens and things still feel terribly wrong.
But studies have been proving lately what most of us know already to be true: Yoga can change your mood. Asana, pranayama, mantra—all of the practices we know and love—can shift us out of a funk. (To learn more about how, read my recent interview with Gary Kraftsow.) The only sticking point is that for yoga to shift your mood, you have to actually do it.
It can be hard to bring yourself to the mat when you’re in a lousy state of affairs, especially if you practice at home where there are multitudinous distractions. The yoga mat will sit there, rolled up in the corner of the room, staring at you, begging to be unrolled and stepped on, sat on, anything. And then you’ll pop in a movie, or pick up the phone to make a call, and do whatever it takes to ignore it.
But, we can develop little tricks that get us onto our mats, even when we don’t want to be there (which is usually when we need it the most). Recently, I created an altar, an idea I got from a friend. It’s quite simple, with just a centerpiece of a Buddha, and some small but meaningful items sitting atop it along with some tea lights. When I wake up in the morning—which is generally when I am most vulnerable to challenging moods—I go and sit in front of the altar. Sometimes I just sit. Sometimes I chant. Often, the inspiration to move will eventually come over me, and I practice asana. In this way, I trick myself into practicing. And, of course, I always feel better afterward.
So, what do you do to get in the mood to practice when you’re feeling resistant? And what practices do you find to be most effective for shifting you out of an anxious or depressed state? Write in and share your wisdom.
Lately, I’ve taken confronting this resistance to practice as part of the practice itself. I’m considering it a prelude to setting my intention by allowing my “reasons” for not wanting to practice to arise, and then acknowledging them and gently setting them aside. Much more often than not, the resistance dissolves and I’m ready to proceed.
I also try to remind myself that in the many hundreds (thousands?) of times I’ve practiced, I have never once felt that it was the wrong thing to have done. Always there has been benefit, and many times my mood has shifted or lightened or stabilized.
Thanks, Karen, for opening the conversation!