Over the past 5 years – as life has become more challenging – I have gradually been shifting my focus inward during my practice and finally seeing and experiencing yoga as the physical, mental and spiritual practice that it is. There is nothing to prove and nobody to impress (not that there ever was). I now do yoga for myself because it helps me connect to and strengthen my body, to focus my mind and to hopefully become a better version of myself.
I recently made the commitment to doing yoga every day for next 30 days. I would of course like to commit to doing it every day for the rest of my life but I will start with baby steps. Thirty days I can manage and if I get to the end of the first 30 days, perhaps I’ll go for another 30.
I have been dancing around the practice of yoga for more than half my life. I wish I could remember my first formal yoga class but I can’t. When I was a kid, I remember looking at the black and white illustrations of yoga poses in a book my dad had in his library. My very thin, old green yoga mat is a testament to the many years I have been dipping my toe into the yoga pond. I purchased it long before I embarked on motherhood 23 years ago, and when I took it to a class in New York City a couple of years back, the thirty something year old teacher said, Wow that must be a really old mat, they haven’t made that color in years. Ahhhh.
When my children were small, I would occasionally pull out my old green mat and attempt to do a little yoga when they were napping or at school. I suppose that whatever yoga I did at that point was good yoga because any yoga is good yoga, but I was not terribly committed. Time was partly to blame.
I am fortunate as I live in a “yoga heaven” of sorts and this has afforded me the opportunity to try a variety of practices over the past 10 years including Ashtanga (ouch!), Bikram (too hot) eventually realizing I was more of Kripalu type of yogi. A good teacher is key. This yoga heaven has also helped me to keep going back to class.
The real benefits of yoga did not fully reveal themselves to me until I started “needing” the practice. Before then I was engaged in a love/hate relationship with yoga. I loved the poses that were easy for me and I hated the poses that challenged me, the ones that made my muscles ache. Savasana was hands down my favorite part of class. And I spent way too much time looking around the room, comparing myself to the other students thinking, I can hold Tree Pose longer than her, or Look at him do Crow, I’m never going to be able to do that. Yoga was a little too much of a competitive sport for me at that point – not a good thing. But gradually I began to get stronger, the challenging poses began to get easier as I got stronger. I learned to breath noisily through my nose and stopped worrying or caring what anyone thought.
Bit by bit, I began to let go in class and I began to let go in life.