Why Practice Yoga Every Day?

Philosophy Svadhyaya Tapas

sarah jamieson yoga

When I say “practice yoga every day,” I mean: do what resonates in your heart as yoga – whatever fosters presence, whether it is running, yoga asana (postures), playing music, breath work, practicing compassion, cooking or painting.

With whatever you consider to be your yoga practice, I am sure there are many answers to the question: Why?

For example, some reasons to practice yoga asana include:

  • Increase flexibility and build strength
  • Reduce stress and increase sense of calm
  • Develop body awareness
  • Reduce and prevent pain
  • Manage weight
  • Breathe better

But this focus on doing yoga every day is less about the benefits of the practice itself. It isn’t about the lovely long hamstrings or fitting into your skinny clothes; it is about building tapas.

Tapas is the Spanish word for “appetizers,” but in Sanskrit it means something very different. Tapas is sometimes translated as “fierce discipline” or as “burning enthusiasm.” Ultimately, it is about cultivating an unquestioned commitment to your practice.

And practicing every day is how you cultivate this unquestioned commitment. Consistency builds commitment.

At this point, you might be thinking, “But I have tried to practice every day and it didn’t get easier – it got harder.”

My guess is that you made the same mistake that most people make: You tried to do too much every day.

Central to the practice of tapas is learning to live with your most compelling priorities in mind, which means, unfortunately, that it is not about doing everything you want to do every day. Tapas requires that you weed through your “To Do” lists and your grandiose visions for what you will accomplish each day/week/year, and deepen your understanding of what most nourishes you and supports you in living the life you want to live.

If your daily yoga practice involves traditional practices such as yoga asana, meditation or pranayama, drop-in yoga classes can be a wonderful place to deepen your knowledge, connect with others, and give over to the guidance of a teacher, but they are not a sustainable way to develop a daily practice.

Whether it is time constraints, health, location, energy or finances, there will always be things that prevent you from attending a class every single day. Developing a home-based practice is essential to practicing every day. Your practice needs to have elements you can practice when you are sick with the flu, and your practice needs to be manageable enough that you can make time for it even on the days when you feel like you don’t have any free time.

Yoga has been a powerful tool for transformation in my life, and unquestionably, one of the most positive shifts has been a result of developing tapas. Learning to shape my practice into one that is manageable and sustainable throughout the roller coaster ride that life can be has taught me to develop unquestioning commitment in other areas of my life, and it has ultimately led me to a sense of freedom that I had historically been looking for in all the wrong places.

I want to help other people to find the freedom I have found in unquestioned commitment.

For the rest of the month of January, I am offering a special double-private session – where we meet twice 30-40 days apart – and set up a sustainable daily yoga practice for you.

All the details are below.

Sarah Jamieson

Two 75 minute private classes for $100.00

  • For the first session, I will come to your home and together we will carve out a practice space and develop a realistic and sustainable daily practice for you
  • After this session, we will set up the date for the second session, which ideally will be 30-40 days after the first
  • I will come back for the second session during which we will reflect on your experience with the practice and further refine it to meet your goals and suit your lifestyle

To arrange your private classes, please email me at yoga@sarahjamieson.ca

Stress Load Reflection

Awareness Living Yoga Svadhyaya

I was recently prompted to work through an exercise called a Stress Load Reflection.

I don’t think of myself as particularly stressed. I don’t tend to ruminate on things (Thank you, meditation practice!). If someone were to ask me my day-to-day stress level, I would say low. And, on top of that, I still do things every day to reduce stress (asana, breath work, etc.).

So, I was shocked by how much I had to write about in this exercise. It was a great practice of svadhyaya (self-study).

If you are interested, I have outlined it below.

Stress Load Reflection

Take some time to reflect upon your personal stress load. For each of the sections below, write down anything that comes up for you.

1. Stress or anxiety about work

2. Stress or anxiety about your relationship or lack thereof

3. Stress or anxiety about other people

4. Stress or anxiety about the world in general – or specific aspects

5. Stress or anxiety about your health

6. Other sources of stress or anxiety

If you tried this exercise and found it helpful, please comment below and let me know.


5 More Ways to Sleep Better

Living Yoga Pranayama Yoga

Sarah Jamieson Yoga

In the late Fall, I wrote a post called 5 Ways to Sleep Better. Shortly after writing that piece, I had some stressful things happen in my life and I started consistently having trouble sleeping. In this recent struggle with sleep, I realized I had made an oversight in my original piece. The tips I offer are great ones, but they primarily attend to the night time.

If you are consistently having trouble sleeping, you need to attend to what you are doing during the day to help or hinder sleep as well. The focus of this post is on exactly that – things you can do during the day to help you sleep well at night.

1. Be mindful of what you eat

Learn what foods help you sleep and which foods might keep you up – and avoid the foods that keep you up for at least 3 hours before bed.

If you Google “what to eat before bed” or “what not to eat before bed,” you will get lots of lists and reasons for eating certain foods and avoiding others. This information can be helpful in guiding your exploration of how food affects you, but let your own observations be more influential in the decisions you make. From personal experience, I can tell you that dark chocolate before bed sometimes keeps me up, but warm almond milk doesn’t seem to hinder my sleep. You might find the opposite – or the same.

2. Spend time outside

There are lots of reasons to get sunlight and fresh air, but one of the simplest comes down to the process by which your body regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The hormone melatonin regulates this cycle, and it is controlled by light exposure. When it is dark, your body secretes melatonin to make you sleepy; when it is light, your body doesn’t secrete melatonin so you can stay alert and awake.

Long days in the office away from natural light and evenings spent in front of a bright computer or TV screen can disrupt a pattern of melatonin production that supports sleep at night and alertness during the day. Whether it is a walk on your lunch break or a warm cup of chamomile tea on your balcony in the evening, being more in tune with the rising and setting of the sun will support sleeping when the sun has set.

3. Exercise early in the day

Similar to light exposure, exercise decreases the secretion of melatonin, so it is a great thing to do earlier in the day to wake you up, but not the best thing to do in the 3 hours before you want to go to bed.

Exercise is also known to significantly reduce the presence of stress hormones in the body, which can be a huge hindrance to sleep, so you might find that exercise – no matter when you do it – supports sleep. So, as my teacher Yogi Vishvketu says, “Don’t listen to me, listen to your body.”

4. Practice pranayama

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word used to describe the breath work we do in the practice of yoga.

In 5 Ways to Sleep Better, I recommended learning how to relax as a way to support sleep. Specifically, I suggest learning to attend to the physiological changes in the body that occur with relaxation, such as a slower heart rate and breathing rate, lower blood pressure, and a decrease in muscle tension.

One of the best ways to attend to this skill is to practice it regularly throughout the day.

I have recorded a simple guided breathing exercise to support you in regularly attending to your breath. Try practicing it a few times a day. For many people, a mindful breathing practice helps relax the body and calm the mind – both of which will support sleep. Try the practice and tell me what you find.

Sarah Jamieson Yoga – Breath Awareness (6:30)

5. Reduce stress

The other points in this article are steps towards stress reduction. Mindfulness, time outside, exercise and practicing pranayama are all things you can do to reduce the experience of stress in your body.

Sometimes we will want to change our external circumstances to support a less stressful lifestyle, but a large part of stress reduction is simply about recognizing that there are things we can do to help guide ourselves through the physiological experience of stress with more ease.

Another beautiful way to decrease stress is to regularly follow a guided relaxation, and I have recorded a simple guided relaxation to support you in relaxing your body. Our inclination is often to do these sorts of things before bed, but I encourage you to try practicing it earlier in the day.

Sarah Jamieson Yoga – Guided Relaxation (7:40)

Rest well.

Sarah Jamieson

Photo credit: Chris Yakimov