Key Practices for Overcoming Laziness
Have you ever set the alarm an hour early with the intention of getting to the gym or to go for a run, only to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep? If so, then you have experienced what the yogic tradition calls tamas. Tamas is a quality of the mind that is characterized by dullness, laziness, or inertia.
There are three qualities of the mind according to yogic philosophy. These three qualities or gunas are Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva. The tendency of the mind toward laziness or the path of least resistance is its tamasic nature. Rajasic mind quality is experienced by a racing or overactive mind, can be forceful, or powerful in actions. Sattvic is experienced as a balanced mind, drawn toward wisdom, tranquility, evenness, and toward the divine nature of being.
So how do we fight the tendency of our mind and our body to be lazy and slow? There are many tools that we can employ, but two that I have found the most useful are a specific combination of yoga asana and essential oils that impart energy and motivation to the practitioner.
One category of poses that I find particularly energizing are standing poses. They help the body resist inertia. The body has a tendency towards being lazy, sluggish, resistant to expending energy. Our will power working together with our brain are the catalyst to get past the laziness and get our body to move. When you feel particularly slow, dull or sluggish in the mind, try taking a 60 second standing break.
One Minute Yoga Break:
Push yourself away from your desk or jump off the couch. Stand evenly on your feet. Tighten the knees and lift the knee caps up by activating your front thighs. Draw your thigh bones back until you feel your heels pierce the ground. From the rebound energy, lift from your navel to your collarbones, as if you could lift your breast bone (sternum) to the ceiling. Keep your chin level with the ground, and your neck lengthening upward. Roll your shoulders back, straighten your arms, and stretch your fingers to the ground. Breathe evenly. This is your mountain pose, Tadasana.
As you inhale, Keep your arms straight and move your arms forward and up, until they are over head. Lift your front, back and side ribs upward away from your waistline and grow taller. Utthita Hastasana in Tadasana, Extended hands in mountain pose. Breathe evenly and hold this pose for 3-5 breath cycles.
Repeat this exercise as many times as you need, until you feel the fog in your mind clear and your thoughts start to focus and crystallize. Maintain steadiness in your mind as your return to your previous activity or maybe you will find the motivation you needed to begin a task that you have been putting off.
Tools to use when you are overcome with laziness.
So how do you work with your brain to find the motivation to rise above tamas (laziness) and move toward sattva (balance)? One tool I have found extremely helpful has been aromatherapy. When I use essential oils that are energizing in nature, I find the motivation I need to fulfill my intention of rising early to attend to my personal yoga practice.
Some essential oils are energizing and can help to uplift the mood and act as a catalyst to get me moving in the right direction. My favorite essential oils for this purpose are Peppermint and citrus oils. Any citrus only can work, but my favorite is Wild Orange or Bergamot.
One method to use these oils that I have found most helpful, is to keep these bottles on my nightstand. So that when my alarm rings, I can reach over to turn it off, and grab my bottle of Wild Orange. Taking a single drop in my palms, rubbing my hands together, I cup my hands in front of my nose and take slow breaths. The effect is immediate. Not only does it help my eyes to burst open, it also elevates my mood, helping to shift me into a more positive space for the day ahead. From there it is just a small step to move to my yoga mat and begin my daily practice.
My second tool is to practice standing asanas first. Standing poses are energy producing, especially when practiced in step by step manner, keeping attention to the details of muscle action in each pose.
Here is a list of the standing poses that I practice to shake off inertia and get me moving into my day:
Tadasana- Mountain Pose
Vrksasana- Tree Pose
Utthita Trikonasana- Extended Triangle Pose
Virabhadrasana II- Warrior II
Utthita Parsvakonasana- Extended Side Angle
Prasarita Padottanasana- Wide leg forward fold
Parsvottanasana- Intense side stretch
Virabhadrasana I- Warrior I
Utkatasana- Chair pose
Uttanasana- Standing fold
Essential Oil Pairing Suggestions*: Peppermint oil, Wild Orange, Bergamot, Lime, Lemon, Tangerine, Grapefruit.
Diffuser Blends*: Lemon and Peppermint; Bergamot and Fir Oil; Wild Orange, Cinnamon, Ginger and Clove.
Try kicking off your yoga practice with an energizing essential oil. Let me know what you chose, and how it made you feel in the comments below?
*Safety Considerations: Citrus oils can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun. Do not apply citrus oils to skin that will be exposed to the sun within 12 hours after application. Further skin sensitivity cautions: Always dilute essential oils when applying topically to the skin. Oils such as Ginger, Clove, and Cinnamon can be particularly hot or sensitizing to the skin and should be used with heavy dilution in a carrier oil if used topically. If used in the diffuser do not place nose directly over the stream of mist from the diffuser to protect the sensitive inner lining of your nasal passages. Always use certified pure, therapeutic grade essential oils and make sure you buy oils from an ethical and environmentally conservative company.