What You Should Never Be To Busy To Do

The test of your yoga practice? When life is busy.

In less that two days, I’m flying off to Minneapolis for the week for non-yoga work. My organization puts on an annual conference and next week is the week. It promises to be a lot of fun, as I get really excited to meet up in person with so many people that I only know online. It is also is guaranteed to be many long hours of work, lots of logistics to coordinate, plus the inevitable problems that arise when you run an event.

If you’ve ever planned a big event, especially with a very small staff or group of people, you can imagine that the past few weeks have been a bit busy to say the least. It’s really been a challenge for me to keep up my yoga practice amidst work, teaching, volunteering and trying to get a decent amount of sleep in there too.

I think this is a pretty universal challenge in for our culture as a whole. Whether you’re trying to keep up an exercise routine or consistent yoga practice or anything that is important for you to prioritize in your life, it is a constant puzzle to try to piece together time to do it while also taking care of your responsibilities (work, family, etc.).

So this has been a time for me to really test how I can keep up my yoga practice in the face of a long to-do list. I’ve become more aware of the traps I can easily fall into. One is to tell myself to just work harder. I hunker down over the laptop determined to just keep cranking. Turns out, taking time to relax instead of working harder actually increases your productivity.

The other trap is sleep. Or rather, lack of it. At night, I’ll be determined to get something or other done and then suddenly realize the time. That means being more tired the next day or not getting up as early as I’d hoped, and then feeling all the more behind. You can probably see how this circle continues. When I let myself get overly tired, I have less motivation to unroll my mat and feel uninspired when it comes to planning a class to teach. Being exhausted leaves me without the energy to enjoy when I do have those periods of free time, and thus, enjoying life less.

I’ve come up with a number of ways that are helping me avoid these potential pitfalls. One is making a yoga date every week for at least one time that I am going to either go to practice with a friend or go to a yoga class. Having a wonderful buddy who I know I won’t bail on is key to keeping me to my commitment. It also gives me a fun part of my day to look forward to and that motivates me to focus and complete the work at hand.

Taking small breaks is my other new behavior. If there’s “no time” to practice that day, I try to take 15-30 minutes to do a short practice or a ten minute walk around the neighborhood. Instead of berating myself up about not getting it together enough to do a more advanced practice or longer walk,  I have to take the different approach of, “Well, what practice can I do today?”, and congratulate myself when I make time to include yoga and movement into my day, however short the time.

Another way around my traps is do let go of doing everything I want to do. I’ve accepted that my house will not be clean until after the conference. I took a break from managing any volunteer events this month. Yes, these are things that I feel like I should be able to handle along with everything else, but the reality is temporarily pulling back from activities that are not as important gives me more time and energy to devote to the things that are more of a priority.

But however busy I am, I know the one thing that I never want to be too busy to do: taking that moment to make a connection to something outside of myself. I can give a friend a call or text just to say hi. When I have a big inbox of emails to respond to, that still means I can take the extra minute to add a “thank you” or “hope you had fun skiing last weekend” to the message. When one of my cats decides to sit on top of me, effectively making it impossible for me to type, I can take that as a sign that I do have time to spend a few minutes doing some kitty cuddling.

Is there still a long way for me? Yes. Case in point: it is almost 11:30pm when I’m typing this and I really needed to be in bed sleeping already. Yet every time I side-step one of my traps, my practice gets that much stronger.

I’d love to hear from you! What pitfalls do you run into when life gets busy and how do you avoid them?


What’s the Apex of Your Day?

“How do you do all you do: traveling all the time; spending so much time teaching workshops and teacher trainings, AND still stay connected to your spirit?”

This was the question posed by a student in one of Ana Forrest’s workshops during a brief question and answers session. Ana took a pause and a deep breath as she always does before responding:

Some people may wake up in the morning and just be excited to jump out of bed. I’m not one of them. So when I’m lying there still growly, I like to ask myself, “What’s the apex of my day? What is the important high point that gets motivated and out of bed in the morning?” Well, you guys [my students] are my apex. Teaching and training is part of my personal mission.

Not being a person who springs out of bed in the morning with a glow of optimism, I have now added a new ritual to my morning routine. Along with my usual turning the alarm off and wallowing in my deep desire to stay in bed, I’ve started asking myself this same question, “What is my apex today?” I’ve found in helps me focus in on what is really important to me. Yesterday my apex(es) were attending a morning yoga intensive alongside many yogis in their last weekend of teacher training and being as fully present as possible with my family during a funeral and reception. Sometimes my apex is coming up with juicy yoga sequences to try with my students or something as small as thinking of something funny I can email. Focusing on my apex also helps me get through the things I’m not always so thrilled about doing (like getting out of bed), but are necessary to experience the pinnacle of my day.

When I start the work day at my job, I find it’s also helpful for me to think about what the apex for my work that day is. Before I get sucked into email and pulled into different directions, I like to write down a few tasks that are most important for me to complete or put some time into so I’m clear where I need to focus my energy. Of course, sometimes priorities change, but starting with this written framework gives me a place to refer back to and re-align myself when I find myself spending time on smaller tasks that aren’t as important or don’t necessarily need to be done immediately.

But it’s also important to have an apex of your day (or at least a mini-apex) that is not just rewarding tasks or work you feel passionate about, but something that is truly for you. Maybe that’s spending twenty minutes reading a book. Or taking the time to pour your tea into a little tea pitcher or special mug. Even turning on your favorite music mix or putting on a scented lotion you enjoy are ways to add small peaks to different points of your day.

So what’s your apex for the day?

Life Matters

Lately I’ve been fighting off the flu bug that half the population seems to have right now. Yesterday I went to lay down for a nap and my husband snuggled up beside me. Achy as I was, it felt so good to have my hair rumpled and his arm around me. Laying there with my head on his chest, it occurred to me that these little moments are really the best part of life.

Yet how many times do I take this guy, the love of my life, for granted? How many evenings am I caught up in things I have to do: laundry to be done; work to finish, emails to answer? How many times are we there with each other, but mostly caught up in our own tasks and life concerns that seems so important in the moment? Do we really make enough time to have just being with the other person?

This above quote is my mantra for 2013. When I’m feeling caught up in being busy and preoccupied and frustrated, I’m working on taking a deep breath and asking myself, “Am I making time on what matters most?” And while work and doing the dishes and running errands are all important things that have to be done, that which matters most shall never give way to them.

Tonight was a bummer. It was a close game and rough loss for San Francisco fans. Yet there was another part of watching the game that mattered a lot more.


Auntie Megan with her favorite little people