Why do I do yoga?

I have had a lull in my writing. I now know that this venture is going to be tricky one. I write best when I’m feeling inspired and creative. I guess right now those juices are just not flowing. That’s ok, I can honor and respect that. But I also figure that I can out-smart it, or work around it. I have five writings that I have started but just can’t seem to finish. So, I thought I’d keep it simple and try to write about something that would come easy. So: “Why do I do yoga.

Well, to answer that I wonder if you need to know how yoga came into my life? 12 years ago I was living in Columbus, Ohio. I was 28 and married and working as a manager at a retail pet store chain. My husband was in advertising and he was shooting a commercial for our local hospital. They were using a firm out of California to film it. So one night we went out to dinner with all of the crew to this great Indian restaurant. The restaurant had the best gulab jaman that I have ever eaten. It’s this yummy round pancake like dessert that floats in a bowl of honey and other spices like cardamon and nutmeg. I recommend you try it, if you’ve never had it. Anyway, I sat next to a gentleman that had an interest in Buddhism, as did I. So we got to talking, and the conversation led us to the topic of yoga. He began to imply that from some of my patterns of thought and behavior that I would love yoga. See, at this point I had already been a vegetarian for 4 years and I had a great appreciation for the human body. I had been working out for years as a way to stay healthy and active, and at one point I even worked hard at trying to become a bodybuilder.

That man was very persistent, so I signed up for my first yoga class at our local gym. This was back when yoga studios were not available in every neighborhood, as they are now. It took place one day a week, for 8 weeks, back in a tiny conference room, off the gym.  The first class was me, 7 other people and the teacher. He turned off the lights, offered us yoga mats and walked us through approximately 12 poses in one hour. I had been lifting weights and running for the past 12 years, so I considered myself pretty darn fit. I walked out of that class, and for the first time, thought of fitness in a whole new light. I couldn’t do half of the 12 poses he led us through, and none of them were advanced poses. I remember this one pose in particular  that I could not execute and  it left my mind spinning. How could I be fit enough to run a triathlon, fit enough to bench press 165 pounds and fit enough to ride my bike 30 miles, but couldn’t handle an hour yoga class without feeling pretty darn inadequate. I figured that if something that looked simple in it’s outward appearance, but could humble me that much was something worth sticking with. And sticking with it I did indeed.

Upavishta Konasana

Upavishta Konasana

Jump ahead 12 years later and I still do yoga. Now it is 6 days a week for at least an hour and half up to, two and half hours a day. That pose that I couldn’t even tip forward in one inch is now easily executed and cherished as the pose that got me to where I am today. It’s called Upavishta Konasana or more simply put wide leg straddle forward fold. I worked hard on that pose to get it to where it is now.

So why do I do yoga? I do yoga because after that first class I felt great. But better then great, I felt curious. I felt a strong need to know. Right after that class, literally 10 mins after it finished, I was buying my first two yoga books from the store that was walking distance from the gym. Weeks later I still didn’t really know what yoga was, even after reading a few books and going to all 8 classes offered. But what I did know is that I didn’t know it all. At the age of 18 we think we know it all and that doesn’t change much in your young 20’s. But I do think there is a moment for everybody when you realize you have to admit you don’t know it all. But what got me, was that I thought I knew a lot at least about my limits. And that sentence right there is why I do yoga. Because there really seems to be no limit to this practice of yoga. 12 years in and I still almost daily walk away tickled pink by yet another physical/mental challenge I have over-come. I got hooked on yoga because of the number of things that I couldn’t accomplish. I hated this idea that other people could do those things that I couldn’t. So yes, the competitive side in me was being confronted. A lot of people say yoga is not a competition, getting all holier than thou about how yoga is spiritual and not about the ego. Your confrontation with your ego will make you grow spiritually, that you will not escape. But I’ll tell you this, for me, it was and still is about competition. And I’ll tell you why.

The ego is not bad. It’s your confidence, it’s your courage, it’s your hootspa. It’s what makes me carry my voice, it’s what makes me stand up straight, and it’s what makes me determined. If I didn’t want to be better then I was yesterday then why get out of bed? We need to learn to embrace the ego. It is what drives us to experience life usually to the fullest. Without it, we would be meek, shy and reclusive, and miss out on so much stuff in this one life we are lucky to experience.

What is so great about yoga and the way that it is practiced is for an hour to an hour and a half there is no talking! This forces you to listen to all the chatter in your head. This forces you to hear how your ego speaks to you – whether or not it speaks kindly or aggressively, logically or illogically, honestly (satyam) or dishonest.  What the ego brings up in us is not always good, nor is competitiveness. But at least if you are given the time and space to listen, you might figure a way to get out of your own way. The best time to listen is in a home practice, where there is no teacher, music or other students to compare yourself against. It’s just you and what’s in your head and body that day.

So yes, yoga keeps me flexible and keeps me strong. Those are the two best physical reasons to do yoga. But what it boils down to outside those two things, is it keeps me adaptable, humble and balanced (sattvam). The ego can’t get too big and or too small when you practice at home, holding your own feet to the fire (agni). Not everyday is the same on the yoga mat. Just the other day I had a practice that felt like I was beginner. There was no willingness in my body anywhere. But it’s a discipline and I am a disciple of it, because it has endlessly surprised me with showing me all that I am capable of. It turns out that my original goal of wanting to be a bodybuilder came true. Through yoga, I am building the best body I have ever had. Yoga encompasses everything in my body: my heart, lungs, muscles, injuries (himsa), weaknesses (klesha, obstruction), strength’s, attitude’s (bhavanam), opinion’s, laziness (alasya), ego (asmita) and more. It keeps it all changing, adapting and improving.

The best word to describe yoga and the impact it has on me is  “EVOL-UTION”. If you look closely, by no coincidence do I believe; in the spelling of evolution, LOVE  is spelled backwards. I believe in evolution because I have experienced it. It’s being able to see where I have been that better directs me to where I need to go. To evolve is to develop gradually, there’s no better gradual way then one day at a time, one yoga practice at a time. I am capable of anything that I want bad enough. To want something, I must have desire. I desire it because the ego see’s something that it wants to do better.

Yoga gives me the platform to expand. There are over 1,300 variation of  yoga postures. If I had to guess, as popular as yoga is today, there are probably more being added. I have a long way to go in being able to execute all of the asana’s out there. But because I want to be better than others, not to bring them down, but to elevate myself higher then I currently am. I will get it done. I have never gotten bored in the past 12 years. But I have gotten frustrated, injured, and knocked down a peg or two, but the competitive side in me says, get up, brush it off and roll out your mat.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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