The Six Day Week

Yeah, I started the ezBoard thread about whether it is a good idea to practice six days a week. It’s the Ashtanga tradition, but it’s debatable whether an exercise scientist would think it’s a good idea to work out that much. And then the Ashtangis will debate about whether practice is a work out. Sigh. Thankfully, my zen practice has enabled me to hold two opposing views simultaneously.

If I actually think about practice rationally, the story goes like this: Your practice takes about an hour and 45 minutes per day. That’s an enormous amount of time to spend on something day in and day out. Luckily, I don’t spend much time thinking about it rationally. Quite honestly, practice is so early that by the time I get myself to work, do some work, then pause and perhaps have an opportunity to think about practice, well, it all just seems like a dream. And if I think about practice at night, I’m just eager to get back to it, because enough time has passed since that pleasant dream I vaguely remember.

So why do I like a six-day-a-week practice?

  • Obsessive personality. That one is pretty self-explanatory.
  • My body needs to get cracked and “re-set” every morning or else I am all stiff and contracted.
  • My mind feels more settled after practice. And I need it, because work (and life in general) is usually kind of insane.
  • I believe that if I don’t do something pretty physically demanding every day, I will get fat. I used to actually worry about this rather a lot, and now that I practice six days a week, I don’t have to think about it anymore.
  • I’ll improve.
  • I’m gonna die some day so I might as well get in as much practicing as possible before that happens.
  • If I quit, I’m going to have to find something else to do for almost two hours every day, and probably nothing I can pick would be as good as yoga.
  • The six-day-a-week practice guarantees that I will have some really good days and some totally sucky days, and it’s important to practice equanimity in the face of both.
  • I don’t want to muck up SKPJ’s research design. I want to see what happens when you do a 6 day week out of devotion to the system. And you can define “devotion” as scientific curiosity if the usual definition seems too namby pamby…
  • It’s freaking hard. Physically. And even more difficult mentally. Because I have to give up, once and for all, the fantasy that it’s possible or necessary or even a good idea to have perfect or pleasant or always-progressing practices — and just do it anyhow.
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    17 Responses

    1. “my zen practice has enabled me to hold two opposing views simultaneously.”

      Would you expand on this a little? (If you don’t mind.)

    2. 🙂

      In zen, there is the absolute, the “ground of being,” emptiness — and there is the relative, the manifestation of individuality, what’s called “the 10,000 things.” They co-exist without being the same and without being different. Which is real, the all or the one?

      I’m not sure about this, but maybe something to do with the concept of the Trinity in Christianity?

      Anyhow, I’m afraid I don’t know how to explain this very well. Some of it comes in koan practice, where you are asked to resolve questions that defy logic/discursive thinking.

      We cling to our ideas of self and our ideas of what we think. Zen helps dissolve some of that. I imagine, quite honestly, that many practices serve the same purpose — in my case, though, I can only speak to zen.

    3. Hi Karen
      My frequency seems to be 5 days a week. The practice on Sundays tends to leave me somewhat sore so I have been taking Mondays off. I would do 6 days a week again at the shala, but I’m re-evaluating how I practice. Now I seem to do my practice some days at home, to allow myself to move forward with the asanas. I don’t do the practice for ego development, actually for ego deflating. But I feel I’m at a point where my body feels pretty badly if I am only practicing primary all of the time, stopping at an asana that I might not do very well. It’s just that I was given the whole system when I started and when I moved to SF, all of 2nd series was taken from me. They started adding the 2nd one per month, until I was stopped at Eka Pada and I have been there about a year and a half. I started practicing a few days at home going beyond Eka Pada and noticed how the neck and shoulder problems I was developing were going away. The remainder of the series gave me upper body strength. My teacher was willing to let me put Pincha, Vatayasana and Gomukasna in my daily practice of Primary, and let me separate the primary practice from the second. The teacher would investigage how my body is responding to Dwi Pada and we would go from there. I haven’t tried that because I still want to do the whole 2nd, warts and all, I just would not be able to to do it in the shala. Anyway, sorry for the brain dump. I’m just in a quandry as to my practice, whether to return to the shala and push myself until I make a breakthrough in an asana difficult to me, or practice at home some days to allow myself not be constrained. My teachers is pretty understanding, but I would have to have a face to face talk outside the shala, not exchanging emails or having short discussions during practice. We may be both going to an upcoming workshop, so that may be a time to talk about this during a break at that workshop.

    4. your description of “the ground of being: and “the 10,000 things” sound remarkably (to me) like purusha and prakrti. purusha the unchanging and ever-present Brahman (in the vedantic sense), and prakrti the always changing phenomenal world….

      having actually been in the room during much of your 6-day a week practice 🙂 and sometimes attempting to observe others with the eye of a teacher (“what is this person doing and how can I help them?”) I would say your asana practice demonstrates WHY 6-day a week practice is effective. From the POV of tan observers, you have “improved” (“progressed”) more, and more quickly than anyone else I know.

    5. sometime typo’s are freakin’ FUNNY!

      although, living in AZ, we may very well BE “tan observers” what I thought I was typing was “From the POV of an observer”…..

    6. Thanks, SS! That comment made me feel really happy! Despite the fact that I am at work (which is insane chaos all day every day lately), and the fact that I barely remember practicing the past few days. 😉

      Hi Arturo. I wish I knew the answer to your thoughts about practice parameters. I guess there’s no final answer, and we all just have to go through different phases where we try different ways of doing (and thinking about) our practice. And now that I think about it, I guess THAT’S part of the practice, too!

    7. Karen, thanks for clarifying. Yeah, I can see how the nature of the Trinity is similar to what you’re talking about. I just have a very black and white mind, and it seems that it would be good to get beyond that. 🙂

    8. Oooh this is a topic on my mind lately 🙂

      I’m just trying to satisfy Attila by doing a six day week once a month. Maybe. I mean I’ll now take days off for awhile until he says something…

    9. GF: I know there are writings by Christian mystics. Maybe that would help loosen up the black and white?

      Linda, you love the mind games with C! If I did practice by what my mind says, it’d be really difficult. These days, my body gets up and has coffee and then goes to practice by itself. MUCH easier than when my mind runs the show!

    10. Oh, and SS, re: purusha and prakrti. I haven’t looked into this too carefully, but as I understand it, one big difference between zen and… oh crap, what does purusha and prakrti belong to? Would it just be called “Hinduism” or is it something more specific, like Advaita? Anyhow, the difference between the zen concept and the yoga-related spiritual concept is that zen doesn’t posit a soul.

    11. If you would like a non-zen post, I also do 5 days a week, though my Sunday practice is 2 hours or longer (includes 2d poses.) Like Arturo, though I didn’t read his entire reply because I’m too tired, I find that I need breaks. If my schedule as a litigator permits, I do MWF 5:30 am mysore, and S/S led classes. I find that I am so relaxed on M and W nights because I don’t have yoga the next morning. I don’t worry about what I eat or what time I go to bed. I can stay up later with Husband and Son, watching tv.

      I have wanted to try what boodi’s teacher told her; namely, do 6 days once a month. Week after next, after I finish a trial , I will do. Trials have a zen quality too. If you are calm and focused, you win.

    12. Hi Karen – I am a six-day-a-week-er. Why? Because I am OBSESSED. Also, because a six-day-a-week practice is really five days a week two weeks out of the month. And if you have ladies holiday (which I don’t), you get three more days off too.

      When I was a runner, I ran six days a week. Some days were four miles. Some were 8. One was 12 plus. Now, strangely, my practice barely differs from day to day, but still I practice every day except moon days (or if I know I am going to miss a day, then I will practice the moon day to make up for it).

      It just works for me. Like you, I am creaky and stiff without the practice. I need the practice to feel comfortable in my body. Even on moon days, I still stretch out my arms and my back.

      Sorry this is so incoherent. I’m tired! But not because of yoga!

    13. Hi Suzie! Yes, the 6 days once a month suggestion is really smart. Makes it more do-able. Work definitely is the greatest stressor for me — once folks found out I get up early, I started getting meeting requests for earlier and earlier. Now I’ve got a standing “I don’t do meetings before 8 AM” rule. I like your comment about zen litigating. I can see where that’d work.

      And yes, Lauren, the moon days make it a 5-or-6 day week, in reality. Thank goodness, huh? 😉 I have to push myself to honor the moon days — like you, I’m a bit obsessive.

    14. Once when I was young I told my dad (an evangelical preacher) that trying to understand the Trinity made my head want to explode. He said no, it makes perfect sense.

      But for me it has always been mystical, koan-like.

      I think that if I had grown up in a version of Christianity that was at ease with its own contradictions and embraced the teachers that Gartenfische loves best, I would have stayed in the tradition.

      From Christopher Isherwood: “[T]he Christian Church has always been unfriendly and suspicious… toward [mysticism or do-it-yourself experimental religion], although it has been forced to admit from time to time that some of the researchers have been saints.”

    15. […] been reading donutszenmum’s blog and I think I get high on it. It’s soothing to know others face similar issues. I’ve […]

    16. Oh, I wish I could get my mind out of the whole practice and just get on autopilot. When I practiced six days a week (which was briefly), it was wonderful.

    17. […] the concept. Actually doing it, well now, that’s another story. In a recent post, DonutZenMom wrote, “Thankfully, my zen practice has enabled me to hold two opposing views […]

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