Next in our yoga and emotions series, we’ll talk about laziness. I actually feel like I talk a lot about laziness here on the yoga blog (at least three times in the last two months!), and sometimes I worry that that might not be all that fun for you, dear readers, but I’ll tell you a secret. I write about laziness so often and so strongly because I feel like laziness is a major problem for me in my life, one that I’m constantly battling against. When I write here about laziness, most of the time I’m really trying to encourage and inspire myself in addition to all of you. I figure that we all have this tendency to be lazy – if I feel like I’m constantly fighting against it, you might be too, and maybe writing about it here will help all of us on the journey.
So what are some yogic techniques for dealing with laziness? Patanjali would tell us to think of the opposite of laziness, which could be activity or movement (i.e., get up and do something!). When we feel lazy, we need to get up and do something productive – while it is okay to be lazy sometimes and take some time for relaxation, we can’t make that a life habit, or we’ll never move forward with our goals and dreams. Anything from taking a walk to calling a friend to making dinner can be something we can do to get moving. It doesn’t have to be something big, as long as you do something! Sew that missing button back on your jacket, read that interesting-looking article you clipped from the newspaper two weeks ago, or write that letter to your friend far away – even something that feels sedentary can be a way to move past laziness, if it’s something you want or need to do, and then you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s done that may inspire you to do more.
But maybe you feel stuck there on the couch. How do you actually get yourself in gear? Another opposite of laziness could be discipline/tapas. If you make a disciplined plan for yourself and then stick to it, you’ll be less likely to fall back into laziness.In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness” (I.14). This to me is the definition of discipline. (I wrote this sutra on an index card and I carry it around with me.) Making a plan for yourself, carrying it out day after day, and putting meaning into the work – this is the way to conquer laziness, because this is how to form a healthier new habit. The first week you try to be disciplined with yourself will be hard; the second week will still be difficult, but it might be just a little bit easier. Two months later, it’s become a habit, and two years later, it’s not even something you think about anymore, just a part of who you are.
When working to fight against laziness, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. Sometimes we all fall a little short of our goals, and when that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it – be gently and understanding. We forgive other people all the time, so why not ourselves? Remember that yoga teaches discipline and practice and hard work, but also non-violence and compassion. It’s our job to find a balance: working hard but not so hard that we hurt ourselves, acknowledging our errors and failings but keeping an attitude of compassion.