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Repetition as a Practice in Presence


As a yoga teacher that guides a series of postures that involve repetition, I’m often asked: “don’t you get bored?” and “isn’t it repetitive after all of these years?”  

Repetition is inherent to our daily lives.  It’s an inaccurate science to provide an exact percentage as to the amount of repetition in our days and lives, but we can safely say that our lives involve potentially more repetition than we might realize—wake up, brush our teeth, drink the same beverage in the same cup or at the same place, and onwards until bed time. 

The good news is that if we shine the light of awareness on the repetitive aspects of our days we have a chance at a measured shift in our lives. 

Yoga philosophy brings a refreshing approach to repetition.  Japa—sanskrit for the practice of repetition—is seen as an essential part of the 8 limbs of yoga.  Most are familiar with Mala necklaces.  Japa mala is an example of a repetition practice that involves repeating a mantra 108 times.  Mala beads, if they are made for Japa Mala, always have 108 beads.  

woman's hands holding mala beads necklace

When we first begin to practice yoga postures we may feel like things are the same, but as our practice matures we experience nuance and subtlety that comes with the ability to breath into an awareness of our own changing emotional and mental landscape.  Repeating poses and sequences is a way to deepen our ability to practice an asana with a sense of presence—being fully present in a posture.  

Ultimately the postures and breathing exercises that we practice were created to train our bodies and minds to watch the repetitions of our thoughts, become aware, and return to the ever changing present.

Not an easy feat, but one that is incredibly rewarding, even if merely for a moment.  

You can feel it when you’re present.  And being around people who are able to be present leads us to describe them as having a ‘presence’ about them.  

Including repetition in practice, especially in a predictable place—like the opening breathing practice or closing savasana in a yoga class—also creates a safer space for anyone healing from trauma, as predictability creates a more trauma sensitive environment.  

At Modo, our approach has always been to cultivate a practice of repetition while also leaving room for spontaneity to welcome the diverse movement backgrounds and expertise of the teacher, as well as to reflect the culture of each Modo studio.

My mom likes to say: “boredom just means that you’re not paying attention.”  So, if I do get bored in my practice, on my mat, on my meditation cushion, driving my kids to school, thinking about the same worries that I always think about, or in the scroll of life, I try to remember my practice in the hot room, feel into where I am, and breathe into what is different about the day, or the moment.  I’m not always able to do this as a mom of two young ones, but when I can observe it and lean in, repetition teaches me to come alive in the every day, and the every moment.

With love,



Jess Robertson is a mom, a bass flute player, a loving cat-mom, dog aunty, and the co founder of Modo Yoga and the New Leaf Foundation.