Yoga is defined as several different things in the dictionary. It’s called “a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” It’s a philosophy that teaches the “suppression of all activity of body and mind, in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.” It’s also “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.”
Funnily enough, the one word that comes to mind when I think of yoga didn’t turn up in any of these definitions. And that word is “practice.”
My desire to try yoga was multifaceted. I had decided that I was fed up with the 15 extra pounds I was carrying around. I was experiencing a lot of stress, personally and professionally. I longed for an outlet that allowed me to reconnect with my body, as I was starting to realize that I’d been tuned out for quite some time. Yoga seemed like the ticket.
I started practicing - “practicing” being the operative word here - yoga regularly about three years ago. I wasn’t in great shape and felt insecure about my inability to hold many of the poses. I couldn’t stay in Tree Pose (Vrksasana) to save my life. And to say I disliked Downward Dog would be a gross understatement. I looked around at the other students in class, in awe of the way they transitioned from pose to pose, never missing a beat. "Practice makes perfect," I told myself (no pun intended). And I kept at it.
But practice was not making me perfect. I felt like I was on a slow learning curve, and while I exited class feeling satisfied, getting there was half the battle. I told myself that I'd regret skipping more than I'd regret going.
My practice has been a little inconsistent over the past three years; I've fallen in love with other workouts and I've moved a few times, meaning I've switched around to several studios, finding locations that were convenient to my current home.
But even if I walked away for awhile, something always pulled me back in.
My yoga practice made me rethink the way I view about my body. It used to be black and white, skinny or fat, all or nothing. Yoga has shown me that my body is an amazing machine that deserves so much more than the lame adjectives I’d been attaching it to.
My yoga practice made me more aware of the way I move. Because of yoga, my posture has improved. So has my flexibility. I can now touch my toes.
My yoga practice made me stop and think about how I fuel. I did end up losing those 15 pounds, and it was largely in part due to yoga. I didn’t engage in yoga to lose weight; I don’t believe that should ever be the sole driving force behind one's practice. However, I do believe it enabled me to eat smarter, which ultimately allowed me to drop the extra weight I’d been carrying around for far too long.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I told someone, "I'm terrible at yoga," or, "I practice yoga but I'm a total beginner." That right there. "Practice." It says it all! We live in such a competitive world. There are so many things in life that one is either "good" or "bad" at.
Three years later, I have finally realized that yoga doesn't have to be one of those things. I am no longer self-deprecating about my practice. Instead, I celebrate my small victories. I can now get into Tree Pose and hold it for quite a few breaths. And I no longer hate Downward Dog. I actually kind of enjoy it.
Yoga has opened me up to many things. It has allowed me to think in new ways. But perhaps most importantly, it has taught me that practice does not have to make perfect. And for that, I am grateful. Namaste.
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