Daily grind: Routine or Ritual?

Feb 12

“Rituals are practiced sequential actions or ‘conscious routines’ that conserve and streamline decision-making energy. Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal.”

~ The Power of Full Engagement, 

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

When you can consider your daily grind as a ritual, doesn’t it just sound more awesome?

Our lives are inherently ritualistic. In many Eastern cultures, rituals permeate daily life – how someone works on something is way more important than the end result.

Routines and rituals are both defined as commitments, usually initiated with a purpose and intention. Both are repeated while often working towards automation. The difference between a routine and a ritual however is that a ritual has a sacred intention. It works with a higher level of awareness. A good daily habit or routine, like brushing/flossing, doesn’t require a deeper meaning whereas rituals do.

For me, practicing yoga at the same time and in the same place (almost) every day, in pursuit of a goal – this brings in ritual. The ancients referred to this ritual as sadhana or “an effort exercised towards the achievement of a purpose.”

A sadhana could also be:

  • A meditation practice
  • A specific yogic asana practice
  • A physical workout
  • A pranayama practice
  • A visualisation
  • Journaling
  • Reading a non-fiction book
  • A daily walk in nature

I have a yoga sadhana. I have a meditation sadhana. I even have a kitchen sadhana. The more I ritualise these processes the easier I find it to slip into a deeper state of focus and flow.

Every couple of weeks I carve out a chunk of time to spend in my kitchen to intentionally prepare food for my family – with the goal to keep nourishing food really simple and set up my physical body to be well nourished during the days ahead. My kitchen sadhana every other week enables me to put together delicious homemade nutrient-dense meals in less than 20 minutes (this comes in super handy if you are in the over-scheduled/under-nurtured category).

Whereas every morning I hydrate, eliminate, move my body, then sit for my meditation practice – my meditation sadhana. My yoga mat faces the same direction every day. I set my Insight Timer and then I begin my meditation. I have a particular meditation I do for a set number of days. This way I’m not deciding what technique to do each time I sit on my mat. The timer goes off. I smile, breathe deep and give thanks. Then I roll up my mat and begin my day.

For your yoga or meditation practice to be more effective, make it sacred

Doing something ideally at the same time and same place brings in the element of ritual. The great thing is that almost anything you do can be easily automated and enhanced by ritual. While you can make a habit of exercising daily for 20 mins, you’ll gain more traction in your progress when you make your practice sacred. The heart you put into the small actions of preparing to exercise, moving your body and emerging make this routine a ritual. Meaning is what pulls you into the ritual, thus freeing up more focus for the practice itself.

What I love about turning a routine into a ritual is that it gives me direction. It helps me enter a state of flow. A ritual lays out the process on the path to achieving a desired result or intention. What is becoming clear through behavioural science (now backing up what the ancients have known for eons) is that finding flow in everything you do is much easier than being stressed out. When we can focus on enjoying our daily rituals – whether it be practicing yoga, preparing nourishing food, going to work, raising families – these daily rituals are tools to enter a state of flow.

“All great performers rely on positive rituals to manage their energy and

regulate their behaviour.”  ~ Loehr and Schwartz

  • It takes Commitment – your ritual may only be ten minutes a day, but just doing it every or most days says that you are prioritising YOU. You’re putting yourself first and becoming a little better every day.
  • It’s Evolution – you’re either changing and growing as a person, or you’re stagnating. Do you want your life to get better, or not? Committing to a regular ritual is one small way to help ensure every single day just a little bit better than the last one, no matter what else is going on in your life.
  • It’s a Foundation – at just 10 minutes a day, a ritual is like planting a tiny seed in fertile soil. Every day you practice you water it and it grows… and as you get used to dedicating ten minutes a day to prioritising you, you’ll naturally discover you want to make more time for yourself. That tiny seed blossoms, grows and bears fruit and before you know it, one day you turn around and discover your whole life has become about ritual or sadhana.

What I will say is that every day is a little different and it’s so important to respect the natural ebb and flow of daily life. On your maximum output days for example, try something simpler for your yoga (or exercise) sadhana. On other days, try a fuller sadhana. The idea that your yoga sadhana or ritual has to be the same thing every day is not realistic. Simply aim to show up – ideally at the same time and in the same place – most days. This enables you to slip into a state of deep focus and flow which is needed for your growth and evolution.

If you’d like to bring more ritual into your day and your life, to bring more ease into your daily grind, lets chat. Registrations are now open for my June Good Change programme. A 12-week live online course that you can join from anywhere – all you need is internet access. Limited opportunities. You can schedule a time with me here. I’d love to hear from you!

What is Good Change you ask? Good Change is a sweet little spot on the internet to learn Ayurveda (it’s a lifestyle science) and be stewards of our health and stewards of the earth. It’s about building inner and outer strength through creating healthier habits of body, mind and spirit. You can learn more here.