Why do you Practice Yoga?
Whatever reason brings you to the mat is ultimately a good reason, whether it be a bad back, to relieve stress, to increase flexibility, to get away from the kids, or even if you go just to check out the hot chicks in their lulu’s in the studio. It doesn’t really matter what brings you to the mat, as long as you can be honest about it.
The best thing about yoga is that it meets where you are. You are not expected to change or become anything different, yoga is about self-acceptance, not self-improvement. All it does ask is to have a little bit of presence, some awareness of the moment that is happening now and to be curious about it. My teacher Beryl Bender Birch describes this as our awareness muscle and it is developed via repetition and practice.
Yoga is not about self-punishment – if that is what you want, leave that for your gym workout. That is not to say that a yoga class can’t be challenging, sweat building, core-working or intense, because it totally can be all that. But what I’m saying is that a yoga practice should be here to support you and should leave you with a sense of wanting more, not wanting to take a nap or an Epsom salt bath.
This may seem contrary to those who frequented my 6:30 am Power Yoga classes at Rama Lotus back in the day, but what I’m really discovering though my own practice is that when I back off the push tendency, I actually get more! When I push, I am into my ego and expectations. When I push, I am not listening to my body, but my mind, or more so, the judges of my mind (hello, Criticism, Perfectionism) berate and belittle me.
If you want a picture of this, check out the one here. I was practicing Ashtanga at home and finally (due to sweat I’m sure) got into garba pindasana (embryo in the womb pose). Mike is upstairs working and I’m yelling up to him to bring the camera down to take a picture of me in this pose. Do you note that my arms are turning purple due to loss of circulation and that I’m not smiling? It’s hard not to look at back and laugh at my craziness. I totally had my worth tied up with what pose I could, and more realistically not accomplish. Furthermore, this push led to injury and a total non-enjoyment of the practice. I was totally forgetting about Santosha (niyama, meaning contentment with what is) and the sthira sukham asanam – steadiness and ease.
So consider this, next time you come to your mat – ask yourself why do you practice – and who is driving the bus?