Why Do You Practice?

When you practice yoga, what are you practicing for?  This has been a question I have been asking myself a lot lately.  I can tell you that when I started yoga several years ago I was practicing, at first, to find some relief from pain.  When I began getting that under control and felt like my yoga practice was becoming stronger, my focus shifted to strength and grace.  These might sound all well but was my intention genuine?  It's hard to say at this point because it was a few years ago.  I do remember, however, that I was very much feeling like the stronger my practice became, the better I was.  Not the better at yoga I was, but just that I was better.  We all go through these times where the ego is strong and when it's hard to keep the ego in check.  Other students asked me for advice and I tried to help everyone I could to advance in their yoga practice.  It's nice to help others, but was it really for them or was it for me?  Again, hard to tell.

I used to practice hot vinyasa six days a week.  I would come home so sweaty that it was hard to take my yoga clothes off.  We all love those days and feel great when we practice and sweat and accomplish but... what is it for?  It wasn't until a year later that I began trying out some hatha classes.  They were slower and more gentle, providing more time to breathe and connect.  THIS.... this is what I needed. 

I read this article recently about yoga.  The author had been practicing yoga her entire life and she said that if you are sweating while you practice, you are not doing yoga.  It was a very interesting article because the focus was that you need to connect with your body and breath to practice yoga.  You should be very aware of your movements and the breath.  You should feel every moment in the pose.  When we practice a hot vinyasa class, the focus is not on feeling the pose.  The focus is on sweating as much as you possibly can and trying not to slip on your mat or get sweat in your eyes (because it stings, a lot).  Over the years, yoga has turned into this booming business.  It has changed from its original and very intimate focus and turned towards pop culture to become main stream.  I have to admit that sometimes I am not sure if this is the right path.  I don't feel as good when I practice like this because I do not achieve that personal connection that I would in a hatha class.  What I have learned is that I don't need to practice to be perfect or to have the most beautiful and graceful pose.  That is an external gratification.  It is not intrinsic to me at all.  I want to practice for all of me, not just the physical me. I won't always have the more perfect handstand (i.e. see the picture for this post) but that's okay because I feel the connection that I wouldn't get otherwise.

It's a very interesting dynamic and I don't know that I have the answer right now.  I think what is really great is that I have space for my own yoga practice and for it to be as intimate as I would like it to be and then, I also have the opportunity to teach those hot vinyasa classes that are so trendy right now.  It seems to be the best of both worlds where I can sweat it out and feel the physical benefits of that kind of practice and then i also have my own practice at home where I can be as slow and intentioned as I would like.  Could it be that we need a balance of both in order to become a web rounded yoga practitioner?  

Anna KouryComment