How do you get motivated to practice Ashtanga when you’re just not feeling it?

In thinking about my practice from earlier today, I came to a minor realization: My practice has been lousy (ahem… more than usual and in the really meaningful meaning of “lousy”) for at least a few weeks. By that I mean I’m not getting anything significant from practice: no lasting stillness of mind, no stronger foundation for the other 22 1/2 hours of the day, no particular sense of well-being.

Whatever Patanjali promised us seems to be retreating.

Now, I suppose it could just be a phase — I probably ought to check what’s going on in the heavens above — and a few weeks (although as I’ve reflected, I think it’s been even longer) don’t necessarily signal a crisis. But the nagging got loud enough today, and so I did what we all do: I looked online for help.

To be honest, I didn’t find anything really useful. I know I’m supposed to just get on the mat. (That seems to be the central message people want to give you.) But I am getting on the mat; it’s just while there that nothing much seems to be happening.

Then I found a transcript from Guruji, via Guy Donahaye. It is from France in 1991, of a talk Pattabhi Jois gave. Link is here, and here’s the relevant part:

Question: When practicing alone at home, sometimes one feels tired, not motivated for practice what to do then?

Answer: You must continue no problem. But everyday you different food, you are eating. That is why. Different food is making weakness…

Shastra (scripture) is telling: “one day different food you eat, if you eat onion, that day your mind is no good. One day you take and another bad food you eat. That day your mind not agree (to do) any good work.” Good food you take, that day is very favored – your mind (is) clear, you see! … That is why every day … some sattvic (pure) food you are eating, that is good.

One day laziness is coming: “Ah, tomorrow I am doing, today, don’t want,” he is telling. Mind is there, mind is not agree. Good food you take, mind always is good. That is method. Increasing (good) food you take, your mind same increasing. Same method. Everyday you take bad food, your mind is every day working bad work… You take anyone good food everyday, same is your mind. Same method.

Could it be the food I’m eating?

I’m going to say no. And that’s not because I don’t put as much stock in the connection between food and practice as many do (although I don’t). It’s because nothing has changed in my diet. Nothing much changes day to day, even.

But I think if you pull apart what Guruji says here there’s another answer — or maybe an answer at a different level. We are supposed to be practicing yoga to help us still the fluctuations of our mind — to get toward a yoga practice might be a way of putting that. But perhaps there also needs to be an existing calmness that provides the springboard or launch pad to get the process started.

And, yes, I just suggested a metaphor of a launch pad or springboard to get you moving toward… stillness.

I may be missing, or have misplaced, that congenital point of stillness one needs to find “success” in yoga.

That might be a piece to the saying: “The guru appears when the student is ready.” Your inherent stillness comes to the forefront.

It may also suggest I need to get down to Tim Miller’s; it has been ridiculously long, for any number of reasons that add up to logistics: When we can get down there, he’s been gone, etc.

That said … anyone have a suggestion for bumping up the motivation level — other than “just do it”?

Posted by Steve