I've been in reverse. I've been taught to practice asana and then meditate for the optimal experience. Yeah. But that hasn't been working for me lately. For the last little while I've been going in reverse. Meditation and then asana practice. Let me tell you about why this is happening. Right now my practice time comes while my 5yo is in preschool and the baby naps in the morning. So there are stretches of wildness each morning just before all goes quiet and my mat can finally be unrolled. And in the wildness of morning in a family my mind starts ticking away - tick, tock, tick, tock - until it is pretty tightly wound. When I come to my mat right away after that my brain is like a time-bomb of expectations, criticisms, frustrations, and complaints. My body is ready, but I need a little mental shift before I can actually arrive there with myself to practice. If I start asana with my brain all in a fuzzy muddle I end up grinding my teeth and muscling my way through poses in a desperate rush to 'get through it' so I can get on with all the other stuff I somehow "have to" do each day. I despise my practice when my brain is over filled. And I'm sure my body isn't benefiting from it at all.
Sometimes I attempt to soothe the mental overwhelm with Facebook or some other online distraction. But that honestly doesn't help. It quiets things while I'm in front of the computer, but inevitably by the time I'm a few poses in to my asana, my thoughts have crept back - along with new input from facebook too.
So lately I've been sitting before asana. That's really what it is: Sitting. with my eyes closed. not doing anything. at. all. (exhale) It could be meditation if I actually went into that state, but usually I just allow myself enough time to sift the swirling contents in my brain down from a frenzy to a quiet roar. It is just enough.
Luckily, this works for me. Shifting the meditation to before asana rather than after seems to clear enough of a path to my inner voice that I can settle in for a deeper connection to my breath and body as I move. I wish I had time to then sit again and for longer after the asana too. It isn't happening right now, but at least I'm starting somewhere.
I guess that's what I'm finding again and again. Sometimes a small shift, a little bend in the rules, is all it takes to get the results you need. You can't be afraid to change things around and make the practice into something that works for you rather than a huge chore. If you need to practice at the "wrong time" or in the "wrong outfit" or to do things our of order as I've been doing it... you need to. Ultimately, having a practice that helps you connect to your inner self is what is most important. That connection is at risk of being totally lost if you get too caught up in always doing things the 'right way' and not ever exploring YOUR way. Instead, allowing a little wiggle room and adjustment space for what you actually need in that moment may create the perfect shift to open you to your own Heart. And that is definitely worth exploring.
So, for now, I'll keep backing up into my asana, knowing that it is precisely what I need to get connected to my Heart.