I originally came to Santa Catalina, Panama for a week-long yoga, surf and wellness retreat, with a plan to stay for an extra week. But without a home to return to and a polar vortex imposing frigid temperatures on the east coast, I decided to extend my stay.
In the two weeks since the retreat ended and my new friends left, I’ve settled into a comfortable routine not unlike my routine at home.
I wake up, go for a walk along the beach, do some yoga and conditioning work, and sit for meditation practice. Sometimes I have a morning surf lesson.
Then I head back to the hotel to change. I settle in at the same table with a view of the ocean, where I eat breakfast, write, and do other deep work.
It’s not always easy to maintain routines when we are in foreign environments, but I’ve found that this is often when routines help us the most. When we are away from our normal surroundings, our routines and rituals give us stability, comfort, and grounding.
That said, I’m also here in Santa Catalina to shake up my routine.
So today, after my early morning walk on the beach and meditation, I decided I would join a slow flow yoga class at La Buena Vida Hotel, about a mile from Hotel Santa Catalina, where I’m staying.
At the start of practice, Michelle, our teacher, said she would be introducing some “self-awareness yoga” poses, also knowns as “SAY.” SAY movements are designed to get the body moving in ways it typically doesn’t move.
In other words, we were going to shake up our routine.
Funny how the Universe delivers exactly what you need when you need it.
The Benefit of Moving in New Ways
Moving in new ways teaches us about ourselves.
If you find yourself feeling silly or self-conscious in a new pose, that’s information that gives you insight about yourself.
It’s an invitation to explore:
- Why do I feel silly in this pose?
- What about this makes me uncomfortable?
- Is the discomfort in my body or is it in my mind?
It also gets the body out of its habitually conditioned ways of moving. The act of switching things up creates new challenges for your brain, keeping it sharp.
Sabbath: A Time to Step Out of Routine
I’m currently reading Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Daily Lives. This book is a productivity manual in disguise.
In the book, Muller takes Sabbath out of the realm of religion and focuses on the value of “Sabbath time” to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Gaining New Perspective
We can only see a thing clearly from outside of it. Stepping out of our routines gives us an opportunity to look at them clearly and assess whether they are truly serving us.
You may think you have a good system now, or your routines are optimal. Maybe you’re right. But how do you know unless you try something new?
A Sabbath day invites you to step out of the typical rhythms of life and explore a different way of being and working.
Maybe you’ll find a better way.
Even if you discover that what you’re doing is the optimal routine for you, shaking up your routine exercises muscles that you may be ignoring in your typical day.
Sabbath doesn’t have to be a full day.
Taking even a half day or a couple of hours to get out of your routine helps you see new things and get new perspective on your life.
Or, perhaps you need longer than a day.
In the Hebrew calendar, the month of Tishrei, when we observe Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is the seventh month of the Jewish year. Just like Sabbath is observed on the seventh day of the week, Tishrei is considered the Sabbath month of the year — a time for rest, reflection, and renewal.
Winter: The Sabbath of the Seasons
In the cycle of the seasons, winter is the Sabbath season. It invites us to step out of our typical hard-charging routines and embrace a slower rhythm.
Embracing this winter energy of moving in new ways may cause us discomfort. If you’re used to a certain way of doing something, deliberately not doing it in that way feels strange and unfamiliar — often it feels wrong. Like you’re cheating on yourself.
The Productivity Benefits of Sabbath Time
You don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to embrace the idea of a Sabbath. Consider Sabbath as a time to step out of your typical rhythms of the week, to move your body in new ways, to practice a new way of being, to do things differently.
Just like using your body in different ways forces you to exercise muscles you typically don’t activate, switching up your routine once a week can help you exercise new muscles in your mind.
Among other things, you also stop the cycle of automaticity that leads to mindless habits.
You can think of Sabbath as cross-training for your mind, body, and spirit.