It's your yoga. Have you ever asked yourself why you do it? You might be surprised by the number of people who don't really know their motivation for practicing. Oh, everyone can say what brought them to yoga. Some came to class along with a friend as a social activity. Some were sent by doctors. Many were lured in by media coverage of the yoga boom, complete with images of lycra clad yoga masters and promises of youthful vigor. Some, I'm sure, simply enjoy having a reason to wear the outfit. All are valid reasons for attending yoga classes but my question goes deeper.
What is it that you are specifically seeking each time you come to your yoga mat? It's an important question. You see, if you can't answer or you simply don't take the time to ask, you are essentially putting yourself at risk of missing out on the highest benefits of yoga. Not to mention the increased risk of injury. Oh, you will benefit every time you practice but you will benefit greatly every time you practice with a specific motivation in mind.
At the beginning of each practice I ask my students to take time to "check in" with their bodies, their states of mind, and their connections to spirit. I instruct them to create an intention for their practice based on information that has arisen from within. Sincere self inquiry yields the exact information needed to guide the practitioner through an intelligent practice.
What is an intelligent yoga practice? Quite simply, you practice intelligently when you train your conscious awareness to maintain its focus. Let's say you are an asthma sufferer. You have come to yoga to become skillful at breathing. On this day you sit quietly on your mat to check in with yourself deeply. You realize that your breath is rapid and shallow. Your body feels tense and you become aware of a mild anxiety. Your connection with spirit feels faint and distant. Based on this information you create an intention for your practice today to maintain slow, steady, balanced breathing.
At first it's easy but the human mind wanders. It's the nature of the beast. Your attention drifts around the yoga studio, now checking out the unbelievably perfect downward-facing dog across the room, now mesmerized by the stream of sunlight that glints off the teacher's singing bowl. You notice your lack of focus and gently guide your attention back to your breath...again and again and again. By the end of class, you estimate that your attention wandered several hundreds of times. Yet, you feel relaxed and anxiety free. You are breathing steadily and fully. You recognize that your very life is a miracle...and that your downward-facing dog is imperfect...and that your imperfections are perfectly human. You are grateful.
Yoga's highest benefits are personal in nature. Yoga means union. When we fully engage in our practice with a clear intention that arises from a deep personal truth we unite body, mind and spirit. Whether we intend to improve our breathing or our downward-facing dog, holding fast to our intention brings meaning and fulfillment. Each time you come to your mat ask yourself, "Why am I practicing yoga?"
~ Namaste ~
Inner Reaches Blog
Dee Gold M.A., ERYT-500
Dee is owner and director of Inner Reaches Yoga & Health. She has been teaching yoga and practicing healing arts for over 40 years.