Why We Practice (or don’t practice) Yoga

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One of the things that happens regularly to me as a yoga teacher when I’m out and about town, is that people tell me why they are or, in most cases, are not practicing yoga. My response is usually limited to the appropriateness of the situation (no long explanations about the virtues of yoga while in line buying groceries, for instance). I listen, and accept the many excuses without comment. But it is so hard! It is like telling a comedian you don’t like comedy, a dentist you don’t like to brush your teeth, or a…well, you get the picture.

Most reasons not to do yoga stem from a misconception of what yoga is. In the beginning, one big misconception about yoga is that you already have to be strong, flexible and injury-free to practice it. People also want or expect an aerobic workout every time they pick up a physical discipline, and if they can’t have that they quit.

Ultimately, though, the goal of yoga is not physical prowess. Instead, it is a connecting of the conscious movements of the body with the mind, emotions, and spirit. It cultivates intelligence, in its purest form, of the self. As you can imagine, that concept is not easy to convey at the dog park!

If only I could come up with a brief phrase that would encourage people to try it and stick with it for a while, so they’d see the transformative powers available: physically, emotionally, mentally…that on the way to awareness of the self, one can undoubtedly experience better physical health, with the added extra perk of a sense of growing calm and mental stability.

The practice of yoga should be fluid and ever-changing, according to your specific needs in each day. This is not easy. It requires a mental engagement in what you are doing.

Tapas, Ahimsa, Satya. Thirst for knowledege, non-agressivness and truthfulness are all aspects of yoga that, if applied to a yoga practice, can address any trepidation about starting or continuing with it. By applying those concepts with as much integrity as you can in a day, you may find that, yes, you do need practice rigorously to get that aerobic workout. Or you may realize that you’re unusually tired and require a softer approach that day. You may learn about that sore knee or shoulder by observing how you move in you day-to-day activities. You may find out that that soreness can be totally curable with a little awarenes. Or you may be more willing to accept your limitations when you have explored possibilities. When you become that tuned in, stability in mind grows. But you won’t know until you try!