9 Ways to Make Routines into Rituals
Yoga retreats often use a routine with rituals to welcome and close the experience. This creates a journey for the group that connects you to something larger. Post-retreat perhaps you have your usual routines, but no rituals to bring meaning to normal daily moments. Here are some ideas on how you can transform your routines into retreat magic every day.
Yoga Retreats Teach Us Rituals
Routine and ritual are opposites of the same concept: a 'habit'. Both are a series of actions completed repeatedly, but the intention is opposite. In a routine, the acts are not performed the same way each time or with any intention: it is unconscious and soothes you with the illusion of control. A ritual you place intention and attention on each of the acts; it brings you to the present moment.
Yoga teaches you that your attitudes towards your environment and ourselves are vital on the path to freedom. The polarity of a habit originates in our second chakra, swadhisthana, the yogic energy centre of creativity. To transform a routine into a ritual improves our creativity and resilience.
Carve a Sacred Space for You
In yoga, the niyama 'Saucha' is the removal of all impurities in physical and mental systems. This is taught through correct habits of sleep, exercise, work, and relaxation. These simple acts to remove the daily debris remind you to let go of what does not serve you. Removal of impurities creates space for inner peace, an inner space for you to develop yourself.
TRY IT: Create an altar place this can be as simple as your yoga mat or a bracelet. It must be somewhere that centres you, where you take time for you alone. Perhaps by your bathroom sink place a candle, rock salt, a rock or gemstone and with the water flowing you have all the elements at an altar. Every time you visit your sink you remember to check in with how you feel.
Take Care To Nurture
You often hear ourselves or others complaining about 'life admin' tasks - those emails or grocery shopping. This is harmful to your thoughts and shares negative energy with others, and in your actions. This is the yama of 'Ahimsa' to not cause harm to others or yourself. To approach your admin with an attitude of compassion softens the critical voice. When you approach from your heart it is softer and you see the value in what is around you.
TRY IT: As you floss your teeth, with each slide and glide the floss take care and pay attention. Be compassionate to each tooth and the gums, do not attack the teeth because they have the plaque on them.
Scattered attention means scattered energy and creates stress for both mind and body, this uses more energy. A clear intention to the simplicity of your actions in each step allows you to savour focused energy and engenders gratitude. Full attention conserves energy so that you learn to moderate your energy or 'Brahmacharya'.
TRY IT: When putting away clean clothes, attend to the detail of each item and apply due care to all the energy used to make it. Be grateful for this energy that supports yours.
Focus on Performance Not Completion
When you enjoy reading a book the pleasure is not to finish the book each time you pick it up, but the story of the book. You are present in the story and not the ending alone. When you grasp the outcomes you become greedy and desire more outcomes: the yama aparigraha. Then you never can have enough.
TRY IT: When you are busy cooking a meal becomes another routine act. Enjoy the steps of chopping, stirring, and the alchemy of the foods. Then you will savour the meal that nourishes your body at the end more deeply.
Add Purpose to Your Actions
When you apply discipline and the right attitude to a task you connect to the purpose of what you are doing without a desire for something else. Be less mechanical in your actions and find the meaning behind each act. Sometimes discipline is about your attitude to a task. Apply a simple attitude to each action and it will reveal the purpose itself.
TRY IT: Washing up the dishes, bring an attitude that you do it with care and detail for proper hygiene and care of the object. A clean plate offers you food to nourish you.
Build A Connection
Acceptance is not resentment. When you resent your routine or 'work' as taking time away from fun things, you disconnect from meaning in your life. Love that you dislike something, it is through the contrast of negative feelings that you know what you like. Perhaps this truth shines a light on a deeper truth about how you see yourself. This yama 'Satya' can humble you to see that you have the same truths as others hidden inside your routines. This commonality creates a connection.
TRY IT: As you travel to work be aware of the environment around you. Notice the other people and your thoughts about them. As you observe your thoughts be honest with yourself about your judgments, and be grateful that we are all equal in our existence.
Celebrate Your Life
The famous quote "Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans" by Allen Saunders in Beautiful Boy is what happens when you are living life in routines. When you accept each step of your routine as perfect as it is at that moment, then you can find something to smile about. This is finding the yama contentment or Santosha and celebrates the tiny moments and acts in your life.
TRY IT: In the middle of your actions, stop and softly smile at what you are doing: see its beauty at that moment. This is your life!
Find Magic in the Mundane
When you mindlessly carry out a routine it loses its magic. Notice your thoughts throughout your routine and question them. Uncover your presumptions and explore from where they originate. Self-study asks these questions without judgment: the niyama 'Svadhyaya'.
TRY IT: As you get dressed ask why you do it a certain way. See if you can find another way that makes dressing appear more magical… perhaps your one-leg balance as you put on your socks becomes Dandayamana Janushirasana!
Increase Your Creativity
Human nature needs to contribute to the world, this is your desire to create. The conscious attention of a ritual keeps the balance of control over the creativity that is mindful of its use and fears arising as acts are repeated. Within the fully conscious repetition, there is space to see the actions and adjust an aligned and pure approach. With fewer energy blocks, you open your ability to connect to the larger picture: this is the niyama 'Ishvara Pranidhana', your dedication to the higher intelligence.
Learn How to Transform your routines into a meaningful life through our Transformation Program!
DISCLOSURE: Nid first wrote this article for Blue Osa Retreat in Costa Rica. It has been amended for Omega Movement.