My teachers in yoga always said that the pose you like least in the class is the one you actually need the most.
I’ve discovered these days that I don’t like cleaning the bathroom. Not that I like cleaning other rooms, but the bathroom wins hands down in the least favourite stakes. It’s the nasty combination of all the human detritus hanging around on the various surfaces and piling up too soon after a clean up that I find annoyingly distasteful. Add to that the cringing over unidentifiable blobs of hair and muck on top of the drains and so on…
What has all of this to do with yoga you may well ask. Apart from the well-known fact that yoga students in Indian ashrams are often given toilet-cleaning as one of their daily karma yoga duties – an act of selfless service. I did have to do this for one week during my teacher training course, and the other weeks of the month I had to sweep the large asana hall, serve food and so on.
I seem to have a force inside me which I can only name as a kind of resistance
When I was mulling over why I procrastinate over bathroom cleaning I realised that I have this notion that I must like what I do. And when I don’t like something, I keep putting it off. That set me to thinking about the things that I do like, but which I still have trouble getting around to doing. Such as regularly meditating. Or getting to the yoga mat at the same time everyday. Or going for a daily walk. So now I have a conundrum. I put off what I don’t like (which makes sense) and I put off what I like, even love! (doesn’t make any sense).
I seem to have a force inside me which I can only name as a kind of resistance. This force resists a set routine, it resists early rising on a daily basis and particularly in the absence of any external factor such as a class I have to be a part of. If I am in the ashram, I can effortlessly wake up even before 4 am but at home even 6 or 7 can be a challenge if there is no class and it is just for my own practice with myself.
So how do I overcome this resistance to doing the things that are good for me, such as cleaning the bathroom or getting to my meditation cushion everyday? First, I looked at the things I have zero resistance towards, i.e. the things I like doing and can do any amount of without any persuasion required. These include eating, sleeping, lounging with a novel or my laptop to get into someone else’s stories, brushing my teeth or bathing. Except for the last two, the rest are all things that I tend to overindulge myself in.
Eating is often an emotional crutch, I sleep far more than is strictly necessary and definitely I don’t need fiction but it is an old and comforting habit without which my life would feel bare and empty. So broadly speaking we can argue that these are all bad habits or things that are not good for me when I overdo them.
The trouble here is my mindset which gives myself too much importance. How I feel about something takes precedence over the task that needs to be objectively looked at and done.
Now the stuff where resistance crops up are all the good habits and things that would be very good for me. And I know this because every time I manage to overcome the resistance and engage in the activity – cleaning the loo or getting on my yoga mat – I feel so good inside. It has a big impact on my sense of well-being and my whole day goes better as a result. In this resistance-category there are two sub-categories, namely things I like – yoga, walking, non-fiction for gaining knowledge etc – and things I don’t like – cleaning, cooking repeatedly, washing piled-up dishes, dusting etc.
I’ve come to realise that within the things I create resistance towards, it actually does not matter whether I like them to begin with or not. The resistance is there either way. So what helps me is if I don’t give the liking-part any importance. If I treat it as a task I have to just get on with without stopping to think and then overthink, then chances are I will make a beginning, however shoddy, and then carry on to finish it, perhaps imperfectly but done nevertheless.
When I start to think about the task, then I get into the territory of my feelings for it, the liking or not, then I start negotiating to postpone, giving myself reasons why its best done later and so on. The trouble here is my mindset which gives myself too much importance. How I feel about something takes precedence over the task that needs to be objectively looked at and done. At times of course I am important, but when it comes to simple daily things that I need to do, those things are more important than myself. By just tackling them without stopping to think of myself, I end up serving myself anyway. Selfless service for the self.
It’s doing you good long before you manage to still your body and mind completely and actually achieve any level of meditation.
My teachers in yoga always said that the pose you like least in the class is the one you actually need the most. So it’s really important to keep doing it and staying in it for a good length of time so that it can work on you. I’m pretty sure that applies to all the other things we postpose and procrastinate over too.
Studies have shown that just the act of sitting for a length of time in silence for a meditation practice has benefits. (Even if you fidget and keep adjusting yourself and your mind is going all over the place) Just the effort you make in trying to sit still and staying put for some time and doing this repeatedly, day after day bears fruit. It’s doing you good long before you manage to still your body and mind completely and actually achieve any level of meditation.
Similarly, just making the effort of being present to any practise is important, whether it is your time on the yoga mat or it is the task of cleaning the bathroom or cooking a meal. You may not like it, but do it, and keep doing it and it will work its’ magic.
Photo credits: Devaki Rajbala
Read more Yoga Musings from Aparna here: