Ashtanga Adaptability,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

How To Make your Yoga Practice Easier

Lets not waste any time. If you want your yoga practice to be easier, be more consistent.

Our bodies adapt to the activities that we do daily. Think about all the activities you do every day without thinking about it. Walking, showering, brushing your teeth and hair, getting dressed, typing, reading and driving to name a few. Can you think back to a time when you had to think to do these activities? If you can’t, your parents, guardians and school teachers sure can.  What about the things you do every day at work? There most likely was a time when the day to day tasks of your profession were not second nature. Now you don’t have to think about them. You just do it.

The same thing happens to your practice.

5 Things that consistency makes easier


Getting up in the morning. After a class a few weeks ago, we were all standing outside talking. One of the students said that she no longer needed her alarm clock. Everyone in the group, who had a consistent practice, all chimed in that they no longer needed their alarm clock either.   I bought a new alarm clock in the spring. I  set it for the latest time I can leave my house. I have not heard the alarm go off yet.  I always get up way before that time and turn it off. I have no clue what it sounds like.  The only time it has ever went off was when I forgot to turn if off and it woke my husband up.  I was gone by then. He is the only one who has every heard my alarm clock.

Truth be told, when I “sleep” in, I am usually not sleep. I am just laying there. Which I love. It feels extravagant and luxurious.  At some point, getting up at 4:45AM starts to feel like getting up at 7:30AM.   If I do sleep later, I actually woke up at 4:45AM but laid there until I fell back asleep.  If you get up consistently at the same time for about 6 weeks, your body will adapt.  It will only stay hard if you press play on your mental “woe is me I have to get up ” button in the morning or if you don’t get a good nights sleep.

Stamina.  When I first started practicing, I would take a break after 6 or 7 sun salutes. When I say break, I don’t mean sitting down or going to child’s pose. I would do sneaky breaks like going to the bathroom, wiping my sweat or playing with my clothes or hair.  As a matter of fact, these breaks were so sneaky, at first, I didn’t realize I was taking  a break.  Of course I am going to wipe my sweat, it is in my eye. Of course I am going to the bathroom, I have to pee. I even had a teacher call me out on it. I didn’t care. They were wrong. “I do have to pee, mean man. You don’t know me, my struggles, my bladder. I had a baby 5 years ago, through cesarean.  I have not been able to hold my pee since. You don’t know me.”

However, I started noticing, that I had to pee, fix my hair or wipe my sweat in the exact same places every time I practiced. I also noticed that these spots never got easier. I spent years going to the bathroom after 6 or 7 sun salutes. This is when consistency works against you.  My body adapted big time. My stamina never got any better. My body was doing what I taught it to which was to quit after 6 or 7 sun salutes. The only thing that got me past getting tired after 6 or 7 sun salutes was to get tired after 6 or 7 sun salutes and keep going anyway.

Hard poses. I hated Mari D.  We were not friends.  I only talked to Mari because we worked together.  She knew that I was not particularly gifted in the lotus department, and she liked to point that out.  Spiteful. Hateful.  I would get her pinned down. Then I would become inconsistent and I would lose her again. After a few years of consistently working with her, we cohabitate (P.S. Marichi was named after a man. I don’t care. This is my story).

Impossible poses. B.K.S Iyengar or maybe Kino MacGregor, somebody said, “yoga makes the impossible possible”.  There are so many poses in my practice that I felt were impossible that I do today without much thought. Headstands, drop backs, drop overs, leg behind the head to name a few. I fell doing a headstand one day and was terrified for years. I screamed the first time a teacher had me do a handstand drop over. I was just so shocked that this nice young man was throwing me around like that.  Leg behind the head felt like a genetic impossibility. I kept thinking about those “bone on bone” chats that scary big name anatomy teachers like to give and hip replacements.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, avoiding poses is not a thing in Ashtanga. Even if they “seem” impossible. Especially if they seem impossible. A good yoga teacher knows when something seems impossible or if they actually are impossible.  My teachers thought these poses were all possible for me…if I consistently worked on them. They were right.  I did Mysore with Ashtanga authorized Level 2 teacher Larry Hobbs recently and he said, “Those leg behind the head poses come easy for you.”  Success!!!

Eating Patterns. There are some people on the planet who can eat a cheeseburger right before twisting or doing jump troughs. For many people, this results in nausea and “the itis”.

Neither “the itis” or nausea is conducive for a yoga practice.  Having a full belly also makes it a little hard to pick “it” (your butt) up, and take “it” (your junk in the trunk) back.  Lastly, it slows down the purification process.  The time before our practice is a great opportunity to give our bodies a clean slate. We usually practice in the morning after a 5-8 hour fast occurs from being asleep. While we sleep, our bodies are working to heal, cleanse and rid the body of toxins. This is a prime time because we are sleep and the body can put all its energy into healing.  Our practice is just a continuation of that process. We do poses that help to push the toxins and waste out from sleep and circulate the good stuff around.

Not eating before practice and eating light the night before, really helps this process.

If your body is used to having big meals at night and eating in the morning, it will get a little miffed when you stop.  Consistency working against you. If you consistently eat light at night and practice on an empty stomach, barring health conditions, it will adjust.

If these amusing anecdotes don’t have you convinced, lets look at the Yoga Sutras.  The Yoga Sutras  starts by defining what yoga is and why we have trouble maintaining that state.  Yoga is basically an undisturbed mind and our thoughts are what is causing this disturbance (Sutras 1: 1-11).  It goes on to say that we get rid of these disturbing thoughts through non attachment and practice (Sutras 1: 12-13).  Practice has to be consistent for it to work.

Yoga Sutras 1:14, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and with earnestness.”

In the first two verses of the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras,  patanjali says, “Discipline, self study and surrender constitute yoga in action.  They help us to minimize obstacles and attain union with the Self (Samadhi)”

Through discipline and consistency, we eventually are able to be steady and undisturbed (Yoga Sutras 2:46-48).

This is how we make it easy on ourselves.  If we are always waffling back and forth and inconsistent, it is actually harder and more stressful.  We don’t adapt. We keep the impossible, impossible, or at best, stay miserable.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail