Why do I practice yoga?
I practice yoga for me. I want to be….better. I do not want to be the best, or the most, just better than I am now.
To me, yoga consists of three things:
1) Physical Practice – I began practicing yoga as a form of physical exercise. I had recently retired from teaching dance, and I still wanted move and maintain some of my flexibility. I was at the public library when I came upon some yoga dvd’s so I checked them out and took them home. I began practicing with Nicki Doane’s dvd several times a week until I became familiar with the poses and breathing. A year later I received my teacher certification through Yoga Fit, and now I teach yoga in my community.
2) Mental Practice – Breathing in yoga is a calming tool I use to help me relax and clear the fog out of my head. So many times in my life I have allowed my thoughts to taint what I do and say. I never liked that about myself. Clearing the mind, staying in the breath, in the moment. This is all mental. My good intentions begin as a mental thought, or feeling from the heart. Practicing yoga sets those intentions into action.
3) Spiritual Practice – So many times I hear people ask if Yoga is a religion. To me, it is not, it is merely a practice, a step perhaps. I do not worship other gods when I practice yoga. I have one God. I will admit that I sometimes use a yoga practice to become closer to Him when I meditate or pray. Usually, I am praying for a special friend, or family member who might weigh heavily on my heart and mind. Praying or becoming focused on God during a yoga session was a natural stage and progression for me, and it felt right to me so I did not fight it. I refuse to fight it.
Yoga allows me to test the waters physically when my body, mind and breath are on the same wavelength, or I can pace myself slow if my body needs to play it safe. Practicing yoga allows me to feel comfortable in my own skin, and it helps me listen to my body. “Having the body we want begins with loving the body we have” is a quote by Mandy Ingbor, a yoga instructor. This quote opened my eyes to the way I looked at myself, so I jotted it down in my infamous daily prayer book where I keep lots of quotes that speak to me. I refer to it often.
Also, through my practice, I am able to “let go” of competition, expectations and judgment, which are areas in life that create stress and negativity.
Competition. I am not of the age where I compete physically like I did when I played high school basketball, danced, or even when playing sports with my two brothers, Chris and Joey. For me personally, this form of competition refers to the competition with society…the urge to conform to its ideas instead of my own ideas, beliefs and path.
Expectation. Whether it is being a mother, wife, daughter, Christian, employee, taxi-mom, dance teacher, yoga instructor, or other small roles a person might accept throughout the different phases of life. There are expectations placed on us by outside individuals or forces as well. Yoga allows me to prioritize those expectations into which are important and necessary, and which are worth letting go.
There are also expectations we place on ourselves. It may be at home, work, church, or even within one’s family. This self-created expectation bears stress and toxins, which slowly poisons our body and mind creating sickness and tension. Now, I am not saying letting go of expectations is the same as ignoring our responsibilities, because it is nowhere close. Following through on our responsibilities is a necessity to a healthy and happy life.
Judgment. In my own practice, this particular area of focus has opened itself up to me more than the others, or I opened myself up to it. I never realized how much I judge someone else until I began practicing yoga. And boy, how quick I am to judge, too. I do not want to be that kind of person. I don’t want to judge and I don’t want to be judged. However, once you look towards yourself and your own actions, your eyes and heart begin to open. Amazing is what it is.
I fall short so many times giving in to the people and the world around me, even giving in to myself. It is everywhere I turn. But, I continue to practice yoga, and I keep breathing, I keep practicing for me.