I got to go to Yoga today and that inspired me to write a post about why I love yoga.
I’ve been practicing for several years now, amazingly, and have had some wonderful teachers. I have a learned a lot about the basics of the poses, like the micro-movements involved in doing an accurate pose. I’m very grateful for that knowledge, because it allows me to have a more productive, can I say, class, and I can keep up with other teachers who may instruct “down dog” but who don’t go into the minutia of the pose.
Yoga class has always offered to me an oasis in the middle of a busy day. It is a place I can go, physically and mentally, to abandon all else and just be. After a class I feel like I’ve had a really good nap or am starting my day all over again. It’s like pressing the “reset” button on the day/week.
I’ve practiced in a very cold air conditioned room at work; I’ve practiced in an unimpressive room in a strip mall; I’ve practiced in a gorgeous hard wood floored spacious open windows loft. And I’ve learned it doesn’t matter where you practice. It doesn’t matter the ambiance or even the temperature (although it’s nice, of course, when those things compliment a class). But it’s all superfluous. What matters is the yoga. What matters is me.
I love shutting off my mind and letting my body take over. Of course it’s not always easy or I might have a particularly yappy-mind day, but the poses allow me to refocus and ignore the thoughts. I’m always more centered after class, and I know a huge portion of that is due to letting go of the mind chatter.
I love feeling the energy coursing through my limbs and mindfully using that energy to move. It’s unlike any other exercise that I’ve done before, where I am focusing on that energy, on a specific and particular body part or muscle and intentionally moving it. It’s elegant and it’s subtle and it invites rather than insists.
I love contorting myself into new poses. I love familiar restorative poses (legs up the wall is one of my very favorites). I love holding a challenging pose. I love falling out of a challenging pose. I love the poses where I find myself thinking, “how much longer?!” and the poses where I silently beg the teacher “let me stay here forever!”
Yoga can seem intimidating, it can seem unreachable or even irrelevant. In actuality, it is the most welcoming of an activity a person can do. Adjustments or modifications can be made for any body, any injury, and any level of expertise. There is always something new in each class, even if all the poses are the same. That’s because yoga is the study of the self, and each time you enter a class, you are a different person. It is a continuous conversation and observation of your self.
I’ve done thousands of downward facing dogs over the years, and I’ll never forget the day I thought I mastered it (ha! the ego!) and then my teacher had me shift my weight…and I went deeper into the pose than ever before.
Yoga’s not about the gravity-defying poses. The gravity-defying happens internally. The gravity I’ve defied in yoga has been everything from lethargy to grief to work stress. It’s not about an awe inspiring pose. The awe-inspiring comes with the awareness from the breath, when you are Present and free for those blissful beautiful seconds before the mind points it out and you’ve fallen out of it, like leaning an inch too forward in crow pose.
In yoga, there’s always something new to learn, there’s always a deeper way to breathe, you are imperfect and perfect at the same time. It is quite freeing.
My teacher has been saying recently that “yoga is not about perfection, it’s about awareness.” I think this is a great mantra for life in general! It’s not about (that elusive, undefined – impossible) perfection: it’s about being aware. Paying attention. Then, like Mary Oliver says, tell about it.