Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” The Buddha
“Grease the Groove” is a concept that Pavel Tsatsouline, a Soviet Special Forces instructor turned western strength and kettlebell guru, developed for building mastery of specific strength drills. The idea is small bouts of practice throughout the day are an efficient and effective way to build muscular strength and endurance. It also allows the nervous system to develop more efficient neuromuscular pathways. He argues this approach is better than hitting it hard once a week. For example, if you want to get better at pushups, hang a pushup bar in a doorway you walk through frequently, and do three pushups every time you walk by it.
We can use this concept with yoga and mindfulness practices as well. If you feel overwhelmed by doing longer meditations or yoga asana practices - or feel like only those longer practices create lasting benefits - think again! Short practices throughout the day can feel more doable and help with habit-forming. You can get up and move through a few yoga poses multiple times a day or stop and meditate for 2 minutes every couple of hours. I practice short bouts of breathing work many times during the day (and I use the practice every time I feel anxiety creeping in). You can also incorporate these pieces into micro-practices a few times a day. These short practices can add up to a lot of valuable time for the nervous system to balance, the blood flowing, and the mind in a calm state. The time adds up fast! The more time we spend doing these practices, the easier it becomes to do them.
A few Micro Practice examples are below:
Micro Practice #1: 3 Cat/Cows, Down Dog for five breaths, five Locust lifts, and one min in Child’s pose deep breathing, then a two-minute meditation on thoughts
Micro Practice #2: 3 Half-Sun Salutes, Warrior 2 hold five breaths on each side, yoga squat for one minute, legs up the wall for one minute
Micro Practice #3: Bird-Dog pose, five reps per side, Boat pose hold five breaths, Knees to Chest pose for five repetitions (moving knees in and out), and a 2-minute meditation focused on your breathing
From a strength perspective, you could even pick one posture you are working on, such as Down Dog or Plank, and get into those poses every hour or so to practice them. This frequent movement also helps counteract all the sitting and combat our more sedentary lifestyle.
Now, if you are a person that finds one solid, more extended practice once or twice a week is better for you, and you have that ingrained as a habit, then carry on! However, if you struggle to fit much of anything in, can’t stay consistent, and need to get into the habit of both moving more, and being more mindful throughout the day, then the grease the groove approach may benefit you. It is worth a try!
When I have yoga therapy clients, we work through all these different ways to fit in practices that work for them that I customize to their unique needs, conditions, and circumstances. The process has a lot to do with habit-building and getting the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Of course, each person’s journey is as unique as they are.
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