Today in the digital age it is easy to eschew paper-and-pen planners, datebooks, and lists for apps on our smartphones. In the same way my planner in college outlined every last assignment, appointment, meeting, and social event, my smartphone held every detail of my life – at least for a time.
In recent months I noticed that I forgot things every now and again – small tasks, meetings that slipped my mind until only hours before, things I forgot to buy, and so on. I out that all the apps in the world were useless if I did not check them or use them – and as you might guess, I didn’t use them because they didn’t fit into my life.
I’d been wanting to return to a paper-and-pen planner for some time but found that many planners didn’t have the exact features I wanted. Not entirely by accident I stumbled upon bullet journals, which are planners that can be customized from scratch. Armed with a blank notebook and a pen, you literally draw up a planner that is completely unique to you, complete with all the pages you need (be they weekly or daily breakdowns, meal prep notes, shopping lists, books to read, or a stick figures in yoga poses). The system worked for me because it was simple, adaptable, customizable, and best of all, could roll with the changes in my day-to-day life.
While teaching a yoga class and adapting the class to the students who were practicing with me that night, it suddenly occurred to me that yoga can be viewed much the same way. There are no two yoga practices that are alike – no two practitioners require the same combination of elements in their practice, and even those needs can change from day to day. Even someone new to their yoga practice will start realizing quickly that they must adapt their practice to themselves – over time modifying poses with props, slowing down or picking up the pace, changing their diet, waking up with meditation, or ending the day with half an hour of restorative yoga – modifying ‘yoga’ and everything it can encompass to suit their lifestyle, and find what works best for them.
It’s easy to look at other students (or the teacher) in class and think that is what our own yoga practice should look like – not just the poses, but also the spirituality, diet, attitude towards life, and so on. But we are all different and unique, and similarly, our yoga practices will look and feel different as well. Our bodies will look different in poses, as will our words and philosophies, and as tempting as it is to look outward for guidance, sometimes it is actually turning inward that will help you find the answers and understand what you need in your yoga practice and your life.
I would be the first to admit that it can be scary to embrace your individuality – every nuance, every swear word (if applicable), every quirk and goofy habit. But it can also be incredibly fulfilling and peaceful to be at ease with yourself – unapologetic for looking different and walking a different rhythm than those around you.