The Evolution of a Practice
For my first blog entry, I knew I wanted to write about yoga as a practice. As a starting point, I looked-up the word, ‘practice’ because I wanted to see how many different definitions there are for such a common everyday word. Merriam-Webster defines ‘practice’ as follows:
To do something again and again in order to become better at it
To do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life
To live according to the customs and teachings of (a religion)
I thought it was a unique coincidence that the ‘practice of yoga’ can be described by any one or any combination of these definitions. Upon further reflection, I noticed that the order of these definitions describe the evolution of my yoga practice.
When I began practicing yoga 15 years ago, I did yoga to become better at it. I did it for the love of the challenge. Some may argue that wanting to become better at yoga is an ego-driven approach to the practice. I’m okay with that because the ego and all its motivation got me to the mat for the first time and it drove me to practice more frequently. Eventually, I found myself doing yoga a few times a week and I did get better at it—I became more flexible and stronger, and I noticed a decrease in the amount of tension in my body– and that was enough to keep me going.
A few years passed and I began practicing yoga daily. That is to say, it became an ordinary part of my life. Shortly after I adopted a daily yoga practice I let go of the need to become better at yoga and I embraced the familiarity of coming to my mat. I looked forward to my practice as a time to put aside everyday life. The familiarity of the practice replaced the desire to conquer challenges and I found a new level of enjoyment. I enjoyed the movement of the body, the free-flowing breath, and the opportunity to put life on hold when I was practicing yoga. I was practicing for the sake of the practice and all it offered me. At this point on my journey, I was connecting more deeply to my ‘self’ and I suppose that is what led me to seek something spiritual—something bigger than me.
My practice of yoga was beginning to reach beyond my mat and into the customs and teachings of yoga and its philosophy. Some self-study of yogic philosophy led me to pursue yoga teacher training where I absorbed as much as I could about the customs and teachings of yoga. That was several years ago and it’s still a gradual process but each day I try incorporate the ethical and spiritual guidelines of yoga into my yoga off the mat. I remind myself often that there is more to this practice than asana (poses). It’s quite humbling, actually.
My yoga practice is still evolving. Some days it’s the challenge of doing something better that brings me to my mat. Some days it’s the familiarity of routine. Other days my yoga comes in the form of actions towards others, but the thing that remains constant is that every day, I practice yoga and I love it.
Everyone who practices yoga is on his or her own path. If you have yet to begin a yoga practice, what are you waiting for? Odds are that you will find something far greater than what you imagined. If you already practice, keep following your path. It may be bumpy at times, but eventually it will lead to peace.
(Alecia Flynn, E-RYT 200 is Co-founder & Co-Director of Rolling Brook Yoga)