It’s the time of year when we’re inundated with calls to re-make ourselves. “The New Year demands a new you. She’s just like the current “you” only stronger, healthier, more disciplined. Oh, and she definitely practices more yoga.”
Rather than falling prey to self-judgment and trying to set unreasonable expectations of yourself that may set you up for failure, consider some simple and achievable changes you can make to improve your life and health for the long term. At first they might sound counterintuitive. Or, downright unproductive. But hear me out.
My hypothesis is that yoga is a creative act.
More specifically, crawling onto your yoga mat all alone for a few minutes of movement and breath and stillness, without a teacher or a screen telling you what to do, is a place to hone your creativity. And the less you make it about discipline, the more you can play, the easier it becomes to establish a home practice.
In design school they emphasized the value of making without knowing. That means you don’t need to have it all figured out before you begin to draw. So stop thinking about what you’re going to make and just start. Because the best designs are those that surprise the designer herself. In other words, it’s the process of making that uncovers the thing being made.
This principle, let’s call it “start before you’re ready” applies to home yoga practice as well. That means you get onto your mat before you know what you’re going to do there. You don’t need to have a sequence in mind, you just need to put your phone on airplane mode and step into the space of practice. I like to start with cat-cow, but it doesn’t really matter. Pick any pose you like, and wait for intuition about what to do next.
George Saunders says “essentially, the whole process (of writing) is: intuition plus iteration.” I love love love this.
What is intuition, really? It’s listening. It’s inhabiting the unknown long enough for something new to appear. It’s befriending silence. Sounds kinda like yoga, right?
When we apply these ideas to establishing a home yoga practice we uncover a philosophy of listening. It’s an embodied form of doing without thinking. In this way, we let the body lead the way so we can slip out of the stream of incessant mental chatter. This de-emphasizes doing it right and instead uplifts feeling, listening, intuition.
When you see your practice this way it expands into your life. So my suggestion this New Year is to focus on feeding your creativity off the mat. Trust that the more you tap into this energy each day, the easier it becomes to establish a home practice. It’s a feedback loop: your creativity feeds your practice and your practice feeds your creativity.
Here are three practical suggestions:
Take yourself out on a mini-adventure. Julia Cameron calls these artist dates. The idea is to spend a few hours exploring a museum or a cafe or the woods just because. Just to feed your creative soul.
Give yourself an hour of open space at home. That is time without any plans or appointments or interruptions. Resist the urge to do something productive like tidying up. Instead, put on some music you love or climb into the bathtub or make a friend a birthday card from scratch. Let yourself feel bored.
Cook a pot of soup without a recipe. Just open up the fridge and grab whatever’s rolling around the back of the vegetable drawer. Start chopping and sautéing and tasting. This is making without knowing.
Wishing you the best of luck with this New Year’s experiment in establishing a home practice through creativity. Please let me know how it goes. You can message me on Instagram @lizzie.lasater or reply to my newsletter: lizzielasater.substack.com
ABOUT LIZZIE LASATER:
As a working mom of three-year-old twin boys, Lizzie very much understands the importance sustainable self-care.
Lizzie grew up in California, where she began teaching vinyasa yoga in 2004. She then studied design at Columbia University in New York City where she met her Austrian Architect husband.
She now lives in Salzburg, where she produces and hosts Zoom yoga courses with her Mama, co-founder of Yoga Journal Magazine, Judith Hanson Lasater.
Lizzie also writes a free weekly newsletter, Rest with Lizzie Lasater.