“Small moments can have great power. You can use your bits of time for bits of joy.”
Einstein famously said that time is relative, and anyone who has ever traveled to a new place knows this to be true. Imagine walking down a street you’ve never been on, searching for a cafe you’ve never been to – the walk seems long as you read all the street names and peek into the storefronts. But then as you leave the cafe and walk back the way you came, heading towards the familiar place you’d come from, the walk now seems much shorter. The distance is the same, but time has become relative. This is similar to our daily lives, where we figuratively walk our familiar paths, unseeing and unnoticing. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘being in rut.’ Just as the deep grooves that form on a well-travelled road can ensnare a wagon, so we can get stuck in our well-worn routines. As a result, time passes us by without our even knowing it.
Time has always seemed scarce, and yet until recently I had never stopped to think about why. What I started to notice first is that I’m always so ‘busy.’ It’s as if packing more into my day makes me feel like I’ve made good use of my time. How often I have found myself thinking, I wish that there were more hours in the day! And yet, when delving into yoga philosophy, and the yamas in particular, I found that asteya, or “non-stealing,” teaches us that we already have enough, and that this abundance is true even for intangible, immaterial things such as time. Being a member of the so-called ‘cult of busy’ makes us feel important and feeds the ego, but all that busyness was actually stealing time away from myself and my true priorities. I felt like a hamster on a wheel, running fast and going nowhere. So I decided to take the first step to break my routine and deviate from my usual course.
Enter the recent 100-hour Align & Refine Backbends Intensive. I signed up with no idea how I would find the time for this highly condensed format. I would have to become less ‘busy,’ but I didn’t know where to start, so I turned to Laura Vanderkam’s TED Talk on “How to gain control of your free time” for answers. In it, she argues that “time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.” Here again is that idea that time is relative. Time is like some kind of dough, which with the right kneading and rolling, can be worked to cover a bigger pie that you’d think was possible. In her talk, Vanderkam tells the story of a busy woman who kept a time diary accounting for all of her time in a given week. During this particular week, her water heater broke, and as a result her basement flooded, so she ended up having to devote seven hours to getting it repaired. Vanderkam uses this as a metaphor for finding time for your priorities – meaning, if anyone can find seven hours in their week when they really need to, the time is already there, it’s just up to us to prioritize how to spend it.
How many times have I wished I could practice yoga every day? Yet, for much of 2017, I couldn’t seem to make it to class during the work week. I told myself the studio is too far away, the classes are too late, I’m too tired, I have too much work… And to a degree, those things were true. In her TED Talk, however, Vanderkam explains that “I don’t have time,” actually translates to “It’s not a priority” and that “using this language reminds us that time is a choice.” So, what I was really saying when I didn’t go to class was, yoga isn’t my priority. Of course, if I had stopped to think about it, if I had framed it in that way and been honest with myself (satya – another yama!), I would have quickly realized that yoga was in fact my priority, I just wasn’t treating it as if it were. I had to start making better choices with my time.
In the new year, I vowed that things would be different, starting with the 100-hour Backbends Intensive. For five consecutive weeks, I would need to devote my weekends to the program. And I knew that with the increased level of intensity, I couldn’t be a weekend warrior – I would need to practice during the week to keep progressing and avoid risking injury. So instead of spending a few hours a week on yoga, I would need to spend closer to 20 hours a week on the mat, and those hours were nonnegotiable – they became my so-called “broken water heater.”
The amazing thing is, I did it.
It all started by putting yoga into my schedule first. I blocked off Saturdays and Sundays – which meant saying no to birthday parties and trips to the beach, events at work and brunches with friends – because yoga was my priority. Then I reserved evenings on Mondays and Wednesdays for yoga classes and decided that these would also become my ‘late days’ at work, where I would stay at my desk until I left for yoga to catch up on whatever I hadn’t be able to do on my weekends. Finally, I committed to attending one additional afternoon class during the week to ensure that I never went more than a day without practice. No more excuses. No more ‘busy.’ Just making time for the things I cared about and letting all of the other stuff fall into place around it.
When Vanderkam breaks it down numerically in her talk, it’s pretty astounding: “There are 168 hours in a week… That is a lot of time. If you are working a full-time job, so 40 hours a week, sleeping eight hours a night, so 56 hours a week — that leaves 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time. You say you’re working 50 hours a week… Well, that leaves 62 hours for other things.” Basically, I chose to use 20 of my 62 hours a week for yoga, and I did so for over a month. It felt so good. Not just physically and mentally (though I did feel really great), but on some deeper level. Like my soul felt satisfied for the first time in a long time because I’d proven to myself that there is enough time. I just had to stop stealing from myself in order to recognize its abundance.
Alexa Mazarakis, an English teacher an international school teacher, found her yoga practice here in Manila. She has been practicing for a few years now and has recently jumped into the world of yoga workshops and trainings to deepen her understanding of the practice of yoga.