From the moment the clock moves back, yoga class attendance begins to fall until January brings new resolve. It becomes harder for us to roll from a warm bed to a cold mat in the morning, and far more tempting to cosy up on the sofa than to leave the house into the dark, damp evening.
Let's cut ourselves some slack. As the nights draw in, we are biologically programmed to eat our body weight in petticoat shortbread and hunker down until the Easter sales. There ain't no fighting evolution, folks. However, there is a way of appeasing evolution: the trick is to be realistic and optimise your chances of successfully hitting your mat, rather than convincing yourself death would be preferable.
EARLY MORNING YOGA
Ah, the romance of dawn yoga ~ the peace, the stillness, the complete it-ain't-ever-gonna-happen.
This reluctant riser knows that, come the shorter days, the idyll of a yoga practitioner tiptoeing downstairs to move in silent bliss to their own inner lark is as unattainable as a comfortable thong.
But often the unhemmed edge of the day is the only time you have. So:
1. Have the heating come on 30 minutes before the alarm. It's hard enough getting sleepy limbs to stretch as it is, so give them a helping hand by bringing the temperature up.
2. Set up your mat next to the bed. The ideal scenario would be to roll off the edge of the mattress and land face down on your mat ready to go. Second-best placement would be close enough not to require slippers or glasses. You need to reduce the number of stages between waking up and arriving on your mat because any stage is a potential excuse not to practise.
3. If possible, practise in your pyjamas. (See above regarding stages.) Also if practical. If you're a satin teddy-type of person you may wish to consider substituting winceyette. I'm not judging, I'm just concerned for your nethers being exposed to the morning chill. If you don't wear pyjamas, consider any boob claps as encouragement; they're impressed. Hell, we're all impressed.
4. Start slow. Your muscles will have shortened overnight so wake them gently with soft words and the promise of breakfast.
If the idea of a dawn home practice through the winter is less appealing than sawing off a leg with a butter knife, then simply move your practice to the evening.
EVENING HOME PRACTICE
At this, the fag-end of the year, my preferred time of day to practise is early evening. I get a one-pot dinner cooking ~ the type that can be trusted to look after itself for 30 minutes or so ~ then hit my mat. Top tips:
1. Have your mat permanently set up where people won't trip over you or try to roll you into the recovery position.
2. Crank up the heating, making your space as appealing as possible so you want to be there ~ light candles, burn incense, kick the cat out.
3, Welcome the sounds of your home into your practice. At this time of day it isn't realistic to expect to be able to retreat. Yoga doesn't exist in a bubble. Accept and smile at the sound of your kids taking lumps out of each other or the smoke alarm telling you that your one-pot dinner is ready.
For both morning and evening practice, listen to the promptings of your body. Move how your body wants to move, keeping things soft and informal. During the darker months, you may be drawn to seated poses and forward folds ~ a gentle drawing inwards in tune with the shortening days.
I understand. When night falls at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, nothing short of Semtex underpants will get you off the couch and out to class. Your Inner Hibernating Bear will go something like this:
You: I should be getting ready for yoga.
You: What d'you mean by that, "Mmm"?
IHB: Nothing. Just ....
You: Just what?
IHB: No, it's fine, forget I said anything. Mat's under the washing.
You: Seriously, tell me.
IHB: Well ... it's raining.
IHB: It's rainier rain than usual.
IHB: Yep. Definitely. Rainiest rain ever.
You: I'm not sure I ...
IHB: That's death rain, that is. Nasty stuff.
You: Now you come to mention it ...
IHB: And the dark. Don't get me started on the dark.
You: (Slowly) Seems ... darkier than normal?
IHB: Darkiest, mate. Accident waiting to happen.
You: What kind of ~
IHB: Decapitation. At least.
You: D'you want marshmallows on your hot chocolate?
IHB: And sprinkles. You forgot those last time.
We mentally wriggle and squirm, seeking a way out that sounds entirely plausible because we are, it shames us to realise, fair weather yogis. So, how to optimise our class attendance?
1. First, and the single most important factor in ensuring that you turn up, is to stop thinking about turning up. If you think about it, you're inviting alternatives and options. Don't even glance in its direction. Treat your evening class as something immovable and immutable, like Donald Trump's stupidity.
2. Keep your mat in the car. Make safe that excuse.
3. Pay for classes as a block rather than on a drop-in basis for drop-ins are the gateway drug to non-attendance ~ just say no. There's nothing quite so motivating as money upfront. (And block-booking carries the added bonus of guilt relief, knowing that if you do skip a class you're not condemning your teacher to ration half a packet of Polo mints until next week to survive.)
4. Nobody has regretted going to yoga ever. Repeat to self as a mantra whenever resolve wobbles.
So through the cold, long months ahead, honour your Inner Hibernating Bear but, whatever you do, don't panda to it.
Have you got any tips or tricks that help to motivate your yoga practice? I'd love to hear them!