Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why I do yoga. Today.

A friend recently asked why I do yoga.  She's working on a school project.  Here's my response...

Why do I do yoga?

I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for roughly twenty years now. I must admit it’s been mostly off, but I’ve rediscovered it over the past year. Usually my ‘on period’ is driven by a friend invite or seeing a sign for a yoga class at the gym or a nearby studio, but this latest rediscovery has been a more conscious effort. I think if I share my reasons for jumping back into yoga, it might help to explain what I like about it and how it helps me to be more centered.

I've been so wholly focused on making Mt. Tom’s a success over the past decade, I've neglected the part of me that craves spiritual connection - something deeper and more meaningful. I finally have a manager and a crew that have been with me for a few years and are ready and able to take on more of the tasks I've been doing myself since the beginning. This is opening up a sizable chunk of time for me.

I've been trying to redefine success where time and balance are weighted more heavily than my bank account.

I've always been into fitness, nutrition, and self-help, but I've generally compartmentalized that from my professional life, and even from each other. I'm still in the exploration stage, but I feel like yoga could be that 'thing' that brings it all together at a deeper level. Meditation is great, but I like how yoga connects you with your body, your humanness. It simplifies things down to just your breath. It's non-judgmental. It asks you to push past your comfort zone, but in a non-threatening way. Every yogi I've met has such good energy. They seem to have this aura of fullness to them, their happiness is overflowing. I know that happiness can really only be found within yourself, but it seems like yoga is great way to center yourself and help bring life down to its most basic level. And I think that's where many of the answers lie.

Yoga is like one of those great friends that even if you lose touch with them for a period of time, when you reconnect, you can just pick up where you left off. No hard feelings. No guilt. Nobody’s fault. You’re just genuinely happy to be together again.

I’ve done yoga in the comfort of my own home occasionally, but following the words of a one-dimensional person on a video just isn’t the same as being in a studio with a real live instructor. You’re surrounded by fellow yogis of all different sizes, shapes, and abilities. You get to feed on each other’s energy. You can’t just put the video on pause and go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You’re in it for the duration. No two live classes are exactly the same. The instructor will often ask the class how they are feeling and if there’s anything in particular they want to work on. Classes vary certainly by instructor and style of yoga, but even the same class will feel differently from one week to the next.

I really like how yoga connects your mind to your body. Let’s face it, most of us wander through our days in an overworked, overstimulated fog. When you enter a yoga studio, and take your place on a mat, you leave all your to-do lists and dramas outside. It’s almost as if the stresses of your day are all in your shoes, and when you take them off as you enter the studio, they stay there with your socks. Of course, they’re still there waiting for you after class, but I’ve noticed those stresses have a slightly lighter grip on you compared to when you took them off and metaphorically left them at the door.

During a recent yoga class, the instructor asked us to set an intention to focus on the ‘space in between’. When you hold a pose, like when you’re stretching before a run, there’s a point where hit the resistance of your muscle. Your body says, ‘ok, that’s far enough.’ Then you try to push a little further. How hard you push past that point determines your level of discomfort, while stimulating your body to become more flexible. Just like when you lift weights and you do those extra reps after your body says, ‘I don’t think I can do one more.’ In both cases, you’re pushing yourself out of comfort zone. And as we all know, this is where the growth happens - both mentally and physically. Just as the highs and lows in our life shape our memories and our character, it’s the ordinary moments ‘in between’ where we spend most of our time. Being more fully in those ‘rainy Wednesday afternoon’ moments is one of the the keys to a more fulfilling life. Yoga seems to have a way of providing those kind of illuminating reminders.

In a nutshell, yoga is a great way to slow down for a little while, connect with that precious, irreplaceable instrument known as your body, and align it with your mind and your thoughts. To breathe deeply and consciously, and just be. Yoga is pliable. It can be whatever you want it to be. Go to hot yoga and sweat out your toxins. Take a core yoga class and strengthen your middle. Join a Vinyasa flow and enjoy a moving meditation. It doesn’t have to be spiritual, but it can be. No one is keeping score. Like meditation or lifting weights or running, the actual act of doing yoga likely will only happen for a couple hours of your week, but it has the ability to have a positive effect on all the space in between. It encourages you to be more aware of what’s going on around you and to take better care of your body and your mind. Like a warm ray of sun on your face, it sheds a little light on your soul, and that feels good.

‘Relax and lean away from the noise in the mind.’ - Michael Singer


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