What makes yoga the practice of choice for so many of us? Yoga offers an opportunity for growth on so many levels – even the most physically oriented practice encourages concentration and focus and has an element of stress reduction. There are also so many variations of yoga available; almost anyone can find a yoga class that feels like a fit.
Hatha yoga gives us a way to connect to self that is easy.
Remember Patanjali? (The Yoga Sutra) Yoga is steady and easy. While you may now be thinking, “Easy?”, “I don’t find yoga easy!” Consider it further.
Your yoga requires that you move your body and while the body does not always feel as supple and mobile as you might like, it is very tangible and relatively easy to begin. You simply start moving; and breathing. Yoga is easy.
And this, I believe, is why so many people are choosing to do yoga. However, it is also this fact –that it is easy and so accessible and that there are so many options for how to practice – that can create problems with yoga.
It is easy to begin to move the body and easy too, to take control and move the body into the shapes of the poses. You may work hard but you can accomplish some variation of the shape, build strength and get more flexible. Too often though, the accomplishment is made mostly from will and movement of the outer body. It is easy to bring the same mindsets, approaches, habits of doing and biases to the practice AND to find a style of yoga that allows just that. If your tendency is to push, push you may, right there in your yoga practice. Be it power vinyasa or gentle yoga, you can push. If you tend to hold back to be overly careful, there in yoga too can you continue as you are. That is really easy.
What I have found most interesting and helpful in yoga practice is to explore more deeply the attitude I bring to practice, the deeper actions required to support the movements and the response of the subtle body. For some, who may be very adept at yoga but are not familiar with this style of practice, the poses appear very easy when they are in class with me. I have seen some react to the practice thinking it is not challenging enough. My personal experience though, and that of many of my students, is that this practice actually takes much more focus and is not easy, but does create an experience of ease.
Ease is not something that is generally valued in our culture. The values of hard work, no pain no gain, and just do it still abound and they have flooded into yoga. The most popular styles of yoga may make you sweat and burn and there is certainly potential benefit from that type of practice, but unless it is really creating a greater sense of ease, I believe some of the yoga has been lost. It is not just the yoga style that makes the difference of course. Whatever postures, flows, etc. you practice, the key is the cultivation of inner awareness. “Meditation in motion” does not equal “zone out for an hour or so”. Mindful movement is not simply about the movement itself but about the opportunity to be present with self and to increase self – understanding. This self-understanding in turn supports greater ease. Unfortunately, some of the meanest, snarkiest and even unhappy people I have met are yoga practitioners. Their practice is not creating ease in their lives.
Yoga is steady and easy. Yoga can help you to cultivate a sense of steadiness and ease. If your practice is not doing that, you might consider looking at how you can shift what you are doing in your practice, how you are doing it and what you expect from it.
Are you using your practice to gain control over your body? Over your breath? Over yourself? What if instead of control, practice was more about your internal relationship with yourself? How would that change you and your life?
When yoga is truly yoga there is an integration of body, mind and spirit. There is a wholeness that is experienced and you may find that you feel more comfortable in your own skin, being who you are and feeling at ease with that. Yoga supports you to be more you. And what could ultimately be easier than being YOU?