Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Do I Practice Yoga?

A friend recently asked me, "Why do you practice yoga?"  I can go on and on about all the reasons why someone should practice yoga.  From the well researched health benefits of yoga to the intangible things a yogi feels from the practice.  So, one would think I would rattle off my answer rather easily.  However, being mindful of my response wanting it to be one of truth and not knowledge, I was not so quick to answer.

I have found that the reasons people come to or continue to practice yoga can fit into 6 categories  
Sport | Fitness Training | Therapy | Lifestyle | Spiritual
When I began my practice in 2004 I was looking for stress relief and physical fitness benefits.  But as time passed and my health changed I turned to my practice for therapy.  The yoga path behind me I knew, but I had not given much thought to my current reasons until presented with this question.

With a few deep breaths, I exposed my vulnerability and acknowledged the challenge of this question.  Through the conversation, I realized I primarily practice for what it does for my Spirit.  There are several days a month my practice is about physical benefits - assist my digestive system, loosen my muscles or get my sweat on.  Other times it is for fun; I simply enjoy yoga similar to a musician enjoying time with their instrument.  The majority of my intentions for stepping on to the mat and practicing off, is that of balance and spiritual opening.

I find that my practice grounds me.  Through asanas (poses), pranayama (breath exercises) and meditation I am able to release control, let go of worries and come to the present moment more fully.  I feel alive, patient, non-reactive, grateful, aware and so many other things.  My ego no longer leads; my Spirit guides.  As a heart-centered person I find my Spirit (residing in my heart) thrives when I maintain a regular yoga practice.  (Please note that I am not using the term yoga as defined as only poses rather yoga defined as the union of mind, body and spirit.)  

This explains why I practice yoga.  Perhaps in another post I'll share why I teach.  Until then, I encourage you to dive into the question, "Why do you practice yoga?"  The practice is beautiful because we bring our individual intentions, whether the same or different, to the mat and find them met.  So what is your intention for practicing?