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How the Drunken Monkey Sabotages My Yoga Practice

Bad Yogi!!

Anyone who’s adopted a practice—yoga, dieting, running, weight-lifting or a weekly poker game knows the monkey mind. This is the concept: Come across someone who does what you do, only better, and then the chatter begins.

“Wow. I could do that,” I tell myself.

And I try. And fail. And I quit. The monkey in my brain is now also on my back—attacking my self esteem.

In Awe of the Gurus

It’s been two weeks since the New York Yoga Journal Conference and both my yoga and meditation practice have spiraled down the crapper. Aren’t these sorts of events supposed to be inspiring?

With yoga rock stars like David Swenson, Leslie Kaminoff, Gary Kraftsow and Ana Forrest at my fingertips I glided around the convention grinning from ear-to-ear. I mean David Swenson? Are you kidding? He was one of three extremely awesome yogis who inspired me to begin my yoga practice over 12 years ago! And I finally get to take classes, and a picture, with him.

I felt like Wayne and Garth in front of Alice Cooper (“I’m not worthy!”). The funny part—Swenson was totally approachable and utterly human, which made him even more of a badass. And then I came home. To my yoga mat. And my inner teacher. Yikes.

Back to Yoga Earth

As soon as I got home I trashed my yoga practice just like a frustrated architect scraps blueprints. After being in the presence of yoga greatness I felt like a clumsy oaf. Does it matter that every class I took at the convention opened yoga doors? Like being able to “fly” from downward dog to a forward bend without my feet landing like boulders? Like “floating” from downward dog to a freaking handstand?

Hello? No! Because as soon as I returned to familiar territory—home and mat—my neurotic monkey mind slammed every yoga door shut.

“Back to the basics,” my brain quipped. “You’ve got a lot of work to do.”

And then I got busy. I moved from the suburbs into town. My online yoga project consumed me. I stopped meditating because “I’m not far enough along in my yoga practice.” I resorted to 15 minutes of sun salutations that eventually tapered off into long hikes.

I even went to the gym because I told myself my “core” isn’t strong enough. Even though David Swenson told me not to focus on my core. Have you seen his “core”? Why wouldn’t I listen to that guy? I found a Tibetan meditation class in lieu of my daily morning meditation. It meets once a week. My yoga practice wasn’t even on my mat anymore. It was all over the place. Just like my mind.

When did I notice? This morning. Two weeks later. What a spiral.

Bad Yogi? Really?

And this is where the monkey mind kicks back with a banana daiquiri and watches his work—completely ignoring that anything I’ve done at this point required lots of practice. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, but the drunken monkey mind lounging in the hammock tells me exactly that. Sometimes the jerk will attack what kind of person I am—like I’m a terrible human being if I can’t float into a handstand. Really? Bad yogi? Ahem, time for a reality check.

Sober Up

Now that I’m awake, it’s really important to refrain from beating myself up about the last two weeks. Because too many banana daiquiris leave a mean hangover. And I’ve been letting the drunken monkey chatter in my ear for weeks. Pretty sure David Swenson has a monkey in his mind, but his “core” has more to do with mind than abs and back. My core can be there, too. If I balance the banana daiquiris with daily practice. And pay attention to my monkey and my practice.

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