Establishing routines and creating a (Yoga) practice for daily life

Whilst looking out at the quaint and quiet crescent green from my new home in North Yorkshire, I am beginning to settle in nicely to a new lifestyle, a new location, and new routines. I have seen my parents most days since I arrived 6 months ago as they live just 15 mins drive, compared to 4hrs for the past 26 years, this will become a new routine for me as they embrace their best and Golden Years. This was a HUGE move for me to be closer to them and a big adaptation to a lifestyle I had created and shaped living in and around London.

To coincide with losing some of my own routines and creating new ones in Yorkshire, our class theme last month was all about ‘Establishing a Routine’, not just in our yoga practice, but within daily life. This included systematic, structured, and often repeated rituals and sequences within our Yoga practice & classes.

To be able to create a new routine, a new routine takes practice!

Humans are creatures of habit, and just as it takes 20 years or more to develop our adult personalities, we’re developing behaviours and habits that will stay with us for a lifetime. Unfortunately, some of those behaviours and habits are not always healthy or helpful and some may cause long-term challenges as we move forward in our lives. Changing a behaviour or habit is not done overnight. If it took 20 years to learn, it’s likely it will take an equally significant (if not the same) amount of time to “unlearn” or to change a habit.

During the past two years I have no doubt your own ’schedule’ or ‘routine’ has adapted and diversified from the high level of uncertainty as to what we can & can’t do and when & where we can do it. What slipped from your routine during this time that has not found a way back to your diary just yet? Or, you have built new habits and routines during this time; some you wish to keep, some maybe not so much. The one constant you may already have is your Yoga; daily, weekly, monthly or an annual retreat, your yoga practice can always be added to and complemented. By creating your own self-practice, finding time for morning meditation, or following other Yoga paths, yoga doesn’t just have to be Asana or on the mat! It could be finding a passion volunteering and the selfless service of Karma, or 5 min breathing technique before you go to sleep for your Pranayama. You may even have regular rituals that you do before you come to your mat, washing, placing your mat, water, or props in a certain way. All are your Yoga practice!

What can you do to add a little Yoga practice to your daily life?

  1. Introduce 5-10 mins of meditation or breathwork into your day
  2. Eat at the same times throughout the day
  3. Create a Yoga sequence that supports you, which you can repeat each day
  4. Take 5-10 mins in Savasana or put your legs up the wall at the end of your day
  5. Go to bed at the same time each night

Reminding ourselves of the quote, both from Aristotle and William Durrant
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.
Or put simply, excellence is a habit, and that is why we call ‘Yoga a practice’. The modern phrase of ‘Eat, Sleep, X, Repeat’ says it all, and could be used for anything that we wish to create as a practice or routine… what is your ‘X’?

How to clean a Yoga mat

Can you remember the last time you cleaned your Yoga mat? Or are you diligent with a cleaning regime and this is a daily/weekly task you incorporate into your Yoga routine?

Imagine how many nasties and germs your mat picks up from indoor or outdoor practice, our beloved pets and from shared studio floors. Not to mention the necessary and inevitable rolling up on itself at the end of a sweaty sequence! Do you have one or more mats that you use for different locations? Home, studio, outside?

How often you should clean your Yoga mat depends on the answers above and further consideration as to how clean your hands & feet are when you begin and if you or others walk on your mat with shoes on. (This is frowned upon by the way, always take a respectful walk around, and go barefoot). If you practice a couple of times a week; I would recommend cleaning your yoga mat at least once a month. However, if you practice yoga every day, aim to clean your mat more often, about once every couple of weeks or weekly.
If you practice hot yoga, you’ll need to clean and sanitise your mat more often to wash away sweat and reduce risk of growth and spread of bacteria and fungi, which thrive in humid environments. Using a thin towel or a yoga mat towel helps combat this as the mat towel is much easier to wash in a machine than a yoga mat. (If your mat can go in the machine).
Before you proceed with any of the following methods, check the manufacturer’s instructions and perform a patch test to make sure it doesn’t damage your mat. These methods are safe and effective to keep your yoga mat clean from unhealthy and unwanted bacteria, but we don’t want to ruin your mat in the process.

Spot clean your Yoga mat

There are some cost effective and efficient ways that you can keep your mat clean regularly. Spot cleaning your mat after practice can help prevent the build-up of bacteria. Create your own DIY cleaner in a portable spray bottle using white vinegar which has antibacterial properties. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, add a few drops of tea tree oil , orange or eucalyptus essential oil. These oils are both antifungal and antibacterial, but only use a few drops at a time, using too much can compromise the desired stickiness of your mat. Spray on both sides of the mat, and gently wipe it off with a microfibre (or any clean) towel. Ensure you clean both sides, as the bacteria from the floor on the backside of the mat can get on the front when you roll it up. Some yoga studios will have a spray bottle handy to use at the end of class. When you’re finished, set your mat aside, and allow it to fully dry before rolling.
You may wish to use commercial cleaners specifically designed to disinfect yoga mats. These cleaners often feature eco-friendly ingredients and non-alcoholic essential oils that won’t damage your mat. I haven’t tried any so I am hesitant to recommend any products.

Step by step deep clean

Aim to deep clean your yoga mat once a month or once every few months, depending on how often you practice. Avoid placing your yoga mat in the washing machine unless the manufacturer states that it’s machine-washable. And do not dry the mat in the dryer, this can be a fire hazard.

  • Find a place where you can easily rinse the mat off; garden/kitchen or your bath or shower
  • There are many different solutions that you can use to clean your mat, including dish soap, a mild detergent mixed with water, yoga mat cleaner, or your own creation of white vinegar, water and essential oils. Another natural method for a deep clean is mixing a small amount, 1-2 tbsp, of baking/bicarbonate of soda and lemon with your vinegar mix. The baking soda works as a deep cleansing disinfectant and mild exfoliator, removing any excess dirt and lemon works as an antibacterial agent
  • Dampen the cloth and wring out, scrub the mat from top to bottom in a back-and-forth or circular motion. Remember to do both sides!
  • Rinse the clean yoga mat with warm water. Use a dry towel to remove any excess water or if the mat allows you to wring it out
  • Allow the mat to air dry in the sun, over a washing line, a clean fence or wall. Sunlight is naturally antibacterial, so it will also help kill any leftover bacteria you may have missed during the cleaning process. Try not to leave the mat in direct sunlight for a long period or too often as the sun can also damage the mat. Do not place on a radiator, but indoor clothes horses are handy, as are bannisters.

Now all the cleaning is done, and next time you’re in prone postures, enjoy the clean and fresh smell of your yoga mat