Practice vs. Routine

People tell me sometimes that they don’t really feel like they have a yoga practice, or a writing practice. 

“I mean, I have this thing I do where most days I stretch or I write in my journal but… I don’t feel like it counts.”

Read on for the “three P’s” that I think make something “a practice” — and why you might want to cultivate one.

I used to have “practice” confused with “routine.” 

I thought my writing practice had to be a set, ritualized, weekly routine in order to count. 

I realized halfway through grad school that I had been waiting for a “regular” week to build this theoretical “writing routine” around — you know, a mythical week with no out-of-town visitors or surprise illness or political crisis or family drama or big deadline at work or birthday party to plan or… 

Have you ever had a “regular” week? I haven’t.

So glory be and what a relief to dive deeper into building a yoga practice and realize — a PRACTICE is not the same thing as a ROUTINE.

A routine is something you do at roughly the same time and place. You can even become mindless about it, though you don’t have to.

A practice, I’ve decided, is anything you do that meets the “three Ps”: 

You do it on PURPOSE.

You do it with PRESENCE.

You do it for the PROCESS.

A writing practice? 

You build in times and opportunities whenever, however you can where you write on purpose. Where you write with presence. Where you write for the process.

A yoga practice? 

You build in times and opportunities whenever, however you can where you practice yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, etc.) on purpose. Where you practice with presence. Where you practice for the process.

An activism practice? 

You build in times and opportunities whenever, however you can where you engage in a cause you believe in on purpose. Where you do so with presence. Where you do so for the process. 

ON PURPOSE.

This part is important because it honors the fact that you do need to commit to something to really reap the benefits of a practice. You can’t be so loosey goosey with it that you tell yourself “I’ll just do it when I feel like it.” Sometimes the breakthroughs happen when part of you didn’t feel like it, but part of you committed to practice anyway.

WITH PRESENCE

This is so key!  You probably already know that just going through the motions — faking it — often just makes you feel fake, and worse than doing nothing at all. So doing your practice with presence means honoring how you *actually* feel: writing about what actually calls you today. Letting your yoga practice look different when you’re tired than it does when you’re energized.

Being present with your doubt, your anger, your silliness, your full self when you engage in any practice can make it feel relevant, and useful, and YOURS.

FOR THE PROCESS

One of the central teachings of yoga philosophy, it’s vital to build a practice around measuring process because you can’t fully control the outcomes. This doesn’t mean you don’t pay attention to them — if your intention is A and the result is B, you gotta notice that, own up to it, and maybe try something different next time — but if you ONLY care about outcomes, you’ll feel powerless and frustrated. So be in it for the process itself.

So I’m curious — do you have a PRACTICE?

(If you want some help jump-starting one that’s truly yours, a private lesson or two might be really helpful. I love helping people custom-build a practice that works for them.)

Sarah