Why I Practice Yoga

Posted on: April 6th, 2015
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I’ve been hesitant to write about my yoga journey or anything about yoga, really. The reason being that despite the fact that I practice yoga on a physical, spiritual, and mental level, and that I’m technically certified to teach yoga, I am still so very new to this lifestyle. I don’t want to come into this practice thinking I will ever be a master in this lifetime. I don’t want to regurgitate information I’ve read in yoga books and call it my own. But I have decided that I want to share what I’m experiencing on a personal level with those who are interested in listening.

 

He who binds to himself a joy

Doth the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

~ William Blake

 

I talk about it A LOT. The memory of the lull of the waves tugs on my heartstrings. I hold onto to every letter, photograph, and grain of sand I still find clinging to my hair and my clothing. This place is beautiful. Giant banyan trees create a world within itself from their tangled web of roots that weave through the branches above and back down to the earth below. It’s an endless cycle much like an infinity sign where no start or end is present. Cars come to a standstill on one-lane highways because of the wildlife. Turtle traffic is a real thing here.

My attachment to this place has caused unnecessary pain once I am no longer in this paradise. But my resistance to let go has also brought me to a practice that helps undue all the attachment that has been done.

For me, this practice is yoga, and in yoga we learn to let go. “It will pass,” whether it’s “good” or “bad.” My attachment and resistance to let go of this sacred place is what brought me to my yoga practice and practicing Aparigraha. This practice is one of Patanjali’s five Yamas, or the moral and ethical guidelines for yogis. I was immediately drawn to this specific yama because I often struggle with attachment. Aparigraha is “letting go of everything that we do not need, possessing only as much as necessary. The yogis tell us that worldly objects cannot be possessed at all, as they are all subject to change and will be ultimately destroyed. When we become greedy and covetous we lose the ability to see our one eternal possession, the Atman, our true Self. And when we cling to what we have, we lose the ability to be open to receive what we need.”* Which is exactly why I must practice yoga. Because I am human and often lose the ability to be open to what I really need.

My attachments can be an impediment to my personal growth. My practice keeps me present so that when I acquiesce to memories past, I can remember that nothing is permanent and I can at least feel blessed and grateful for the experiences that do come and go.

I also practice for my health. Part of being open to receiving what I need is being mindful of my body. When I practice yoga consistently, I am forced to eat better and become conscious of what I’m doing to my body. I more quickly notice the unhealthy choices I’m making when I constantly show up on my mat because my body becomes inoperative when I do not treat it well.

I practice for my stress and anxiety. It’s part of the letting go practice and also helps keep me present. Sometimes I don’t want to be present. Sometimes it hurts too much, but I know at some point I have to be, to be sane and to heal my past traumas.

I practice to be still. This also sometimes comes with a struggle. I’m always go go go and distracted by this and that, but sometimes all my mind wants is to just be, just as I am, in the present moment, and to just stop thinking even if only for a few seconds.

I practice for my fear. We often can’t win against ourselves. I’m afraid to be happy because what if it doesn’t last? So then I’m sad. But now I’m afraid to be sad because what if it means something is wrong with me or that it’ll last forever? My yoga practice reminds me that I will feel every emotion and they will come and go over and over again, and again, that nothing is permanent so why get caught up in every detail of our lives?

And lastly, I practice because I’m better able to handle life off of my mat. Sri Aurobindo states, “All life is yoga.” I find this to be so true in my daily interactions. Without yoga I might have snapped at the person that irritated me or impulsively bought shoes I didn’t need. I feel like I’m better fit for this world because of my practice. I become enough, just as I am.

Sometimes I end the day lying on my back on my surfboard in the sacred place I mentioned above. The sway of the waves rocks me into a sedated state. Except that I’m not on my surfboard, I’m on my yoga mat, and the waves are really my breath in my meditative Savasana. On a good day, these two experiences are indistinguishable. On a not so great day, I’m very aware of the fact that I’m on my mat. I’m wresting with my brain to stay present and clear but my thoughts keep pulling me back to all the things I “have” to get done and the frustration sets in that I’m not in paradise, physically or mentally. But these days provide good learning opportunities. It’s not about the outside but the inside and I can create my own paradise no matter where I am. Getting there is what takes heart and soulful work and this is why I can tell this journey will truly take a lifetime.

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*http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/the-five-yamas-of-yoga/

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