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"Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

- Lao-Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher

Daily Practice - Unstructured

By Mark Chaves on 13 November 2013

Previously, I wrote about my “structured” daily practice. In this article, which is the third of three, I will share with you my daily “unstructured” Sādhānā. Let me start of with a little story.

About five or six years ago when I was still living in Southern California, I met a man at a party who owned and operated his own local Yoga Shala (place of practice). Even though I’ve been regularly practicing Yoga at gyms or studios for several years, I know now that back then I would still be considered a Yoga “newbie”. Back then, I didn’t see past the physical practice. I was still driven by my ego. Keep that in mind. I proceeded to ask the Shala owner “How many times do you practice Yoga?” OMG, I used to cringe every time I remembered this and think gosh, how stupid could I be! He looked at me, paused, and with a sincere and centred face said: “I am practicing Yoga right now”. Whoa, I felt like that someone just threw a 5 gallon jug of ice cold Gatorade [no plug intended] on top of me. That was an awakening. Nowadays when I remember this, I give myself a huge belly laugh and appreciate what the Shala owner from California taught me.

spiritual awakening

So Yoga can be practiced off-the-mat??? Without a rubber Manduka mat and your Lulu Lemon spandex? Totally! The Bhagavad Gita conveys that Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion) is the highest form of Yoga. Digression: Bhakti Yoga sounds like a good topic for a future article, actually. Practicing Yoga off-the-mat, as they say, is my unstructured practice.

Firstly, my unstructured practice is unstructured because life is that way. Life is a pattern of unstructured phenomenon. Life is our teacher. In Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, life is a big test. During my day, I tune into life’s lessons and life’s quizzes. When there is an impatient person blaring their truck horn at me, I practicing treating that sound the same way I would treat a peacock calling in the distance – this keeps me centred and focused. When there is a long queue at the grocery store, I bust out a low-key vrksasana (tree pose) – this invokes balance, grounding, and calmness. When I feel defensive in a meeting, I notice my breath and return to a Yogic (3-part) breath in and out through the nose. When feel frustration toward anyone or anything, I remember the people I’ve hurt in the past and all the people who helped me during my life who expected nothing in return. When I have a mundane/monotonous walk ahead me, I notice all the things around me as I walk [no matter how small or how big – even my breath, gait, footsteps] or perform my japas [mantras with and without the use of a mala]. Just before I take a meal I draw my awareness to all possible factors and gifts required for the meal to appear before me. When I feel my ego starting to take over I place my thumb (higher self) over my first finger (individual self/ego) to help me suppresses the ego. The list goes on. The underlying theme to all of this??? Be mindful. See things as they are. Avoid attaching to impermanence.

keep calm and do yoga

These are just some examples of putting my Sādhānā into action. It would be nice to hear back from you with some of your examples. I hope this series of articles on my Yoga Sādhānā gives you a concise view of the “what” and the “how” of a sample Yoga practice. This is a mere scratch of the surface but I hope it is useful. Again, there are many paths, and there are many tools at our disposal. All of these methods lead to the same destination, Mokṣa. I leave you with a small but powerful quote from someone I had the pleasure to share Yoga while I was practicing in Del Mar, California:

I humbly thank all of my teachers. Even the ones I did not recognize as such in my moments of weakness.”

Mark Chaves

Mark is a Yoga Instructor based in Bali. Prior to moving to Bali, Mark lived in America working in software and teaching Yoga, surfing, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Mark actively volunteers his time teaching community Yoga classes, working at animal shelters, teaching rock climbing, and supporting local coral reef conservation projects.

About the author

mark l chaves

Independent Consultant, Writer, & Photographer

Mark became a consultant, writer, and photographer after working in the software industry for 20 years in Fortune 500 companies. He recently transitioned from his roles as a Wellness Consultant and…  Read full bio