Routine is part and parcel of our modern-day life. Our circadian rhythm depends on it and whatever that routine may be, our habits and patterns in life all revolve around it.
Having a routine means that there is structure, and with structure comes familiarity, and ultimately over time, achievement. That routine can be big or small, but by making time for that habit, value is created and added to your life. That’s not to say you can’t be successful without a routine, but achievement can be measured on the smallest levels, and by such levels I mean fitting something into your life that is important to you, and/or your health. Quite frankly, I’ve recently learnt that a house-cleaning routine has had the most unexpected benefits in terms of my state of mind (enough about that, I’ll leave it for another time….)
Take me for example – I work in the City, I get up at a reasonable hour and fit in half an hour of yoga and 20 minutes of meditation, all before work. I am at my desk before 8:30am and ready to go. The benefits to my performance at work and my overall mental health are significant. For me, it’s an essential coping mechanism, and that’s just the start of the story…
Or take my lovely friend and massage therapist, Loretta, who remarked to me the other day that she didn’t have a routine and that she wished she could find the time to do more meditation. Vata types, like us, suffer from a lack of structure as highly creative and energetic ideas can get lost with the wind as we drift from one thing to another, sometimes without any direction in our lives.
Routine then is the glue that can hold us together and guide us on our path. It gives us comfort and inner strength as we make time in the steadiness and good space that our routine gives us – it defines that space and we thrive in it.
Routine also allows (or forces) us to make time to practice; and practice, as Patanjali said, is the key to yoga – practising perfecting your sun salutations which we do every day, being mindful with every stretch and posture and really taking the time to think what it is like as you move your body through each asana, and breathing at the same time too.
I contrast this with an unstructured practice, for which there was no routine. My former teacher said things like “just flop it out there and do whatever with your practice”. Yoga to her became a toy, something to play with, and ultimately shape it to how she felt on the day. I couldn’t tell what was coming next and I couldn’t really engage with the practice. It got to the point where the practice became dangerous. Funnily enough, I quit her class and re-engaged with my Pilates practice in that empty space. Thanks to Pilates and my regular routine, I am fitter, stronger, and a much better skier for it 🙂
Having said that, it was interesting to observe my practice when I took myself out of my routine. A recent ‘yoga retreat’ titled ‘Are You Experienced’ with Wendy Buttery at the Lotus Pad in Ibiza, was asking my ego for a challenge and I gladly took the bait. What happened next was distinctly remarkable: I found myself in a retreat with a bunch of full-on yoga types. They were here for a purpose: To practice. Suddenly, I realised that my yoga ‘routine’ was in a distinctly uncomfortable territory – I started to question my practice, its purpose and what yoga was all about. To be honest, initially I wasn’t really enjoying the retreat classes. Without my practice being defined by the perspective of preparing for my work, and the time that I had to fit in that practice, I found myself in an uncomfortable position.
That resistance though quickly melted when I actually went with the practice and started to engage with it. When I realised that I could do things that other, more experienced yogis, could do, the feeling of hesitation quickly disappeared. Feelings of accomplishment and achievement quickly passed through me – I was in my element again.
The interesting thing about this experience was the parallels with my work. Often I am presented with something complex, esoteric and difficult to comprehend. My natural reaction in many circumstances is to resist, question and generally wish I were doing something else. I often think about why I am in this job and question what I am doing. After a while, having understood the transaction or issue at hand, a sense of accomplishment and achievement is often felt – The contrast between how I felt before and after is astonishing and I sometimes have trouble reconciling those two feelings. Just like pushing myself in my yoga practice, I think in life we tend to feel content in our comfort zones. Stepping outside can be daunting, but with enough time and effort, a new sense of realisation can dawn.
So, routine in our lives is something to be cherished. It gives us the space and time to fit into our lives the things that we need to do or enjoy doing. My yoga practice benefits from my regular work routine. However, as I recently realised, routine itself can be a trap for us to revel in an ordinary human experience. If we pursue our goals in life to their highest possible achievement, sometimes we need to take a step out of that routine and push ourselves. The end result is one step closer to really being.
“Until you are a true master, able to command yourself to do the things that you should do, but may not want to do, you are not a free soul. In that power of self-control likes the seed of eternal freedom.”
Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda
The Law of Success, 1961.