Why I Yoga

A great visit with dear old friends & new young ones.

My recent summer pleasure of meeting up with old friends included a query about yoga practice. My friend has tried it two or three times and rather than blissed-out, she found herself annoyed that she hadn’t earned her cheesecake. Although I began my yoga practice as my primary means of exercise, I blundered through my answer to her. In short, I yoga because yoga makes me feel good — physically, which is what I expected when I started, and mentally, which a pleasant surprise. It’s as simple as that.

Stretch

I feel good when I stretch. I have always loved to stretch. The sensation of muscles awakening thrills me. Awareness of individual muscles and muscle groups quickly brings my wandering mind back into my body. Embodiment is a word and experience that I didn’t know before my yoga practice, but it one of the sweetest rewards or yoga. Mind and body united in the experience of the here and now is to me much more fulfilling than the philosophical “I think therefore I am” kind of life of the mind separate from the body and its physical experiences. When embodied — mind and body united — I enjoy playing with my kids more, I can enjoy professional challenges and mundane housework, food tastes better, flowers smell better, colors look brighter, and music sounds clearer. When I stretch, I love to be having this human experience in this body.

Breathe

I feel good when I breathe. My first yoga teacher — a volunteer at a New Year women’s church group — said, “If you take one thing from here, remember to breathe.” Breath is life. It is simple, automatic, yet more powerful that I ever imagined. Pausing to breathe can change the world (or at least your view of it). Observing my breath shows me what is happening in my physical body quickly and succinctly. Learning various pranayama — breathing techniques — has changed my life. The power and control that I have over my experience multiplies with each breath that I learn:

  • ujayi for focus and calm
  • sitali and lion’s breath cools me down
  • long exhale for resting — great for sleepless nights
  • nadi shodhana for meditation

Breathing is completely free and portable, it requires no special gear, location, or company. I can make use of conscious breath anytime, anywhere.

Glow

The afterglow of yoga feels good. After yoga practice I am more patient, more understanding, more forgiving, and more loving with my dear ones and with strangers. I think this happens because I spend some time on my mat soaking up patience, forgiveness, compassion for myself. I am patient with my screaming hip as I breathe and relax into pigeon. I find lots of occasions to forgive myself for being less than perfect with arm balances — after 15 years of dedicated practice, bakasana is still the only arm balance I achieve reliably. Little by little I learn to understand my abilities and strengths and my creaks and stiffnesses. As I understand my physical self better, understanding of my emotional and spiritual self follows. And I begin to understand, forgive, and practice patience with others. Because I am an all around nicer person when I practice yoga, my husband loves and supports my practice. Luckily my kids don’t know me without a yoga practice, but I’m not sure they’d want to.

Learn more about breathing:

Ujayi http://www.chopra.com/ccl/learn-the-ujjayi-breath-an-ancient-yogic-breathing-technique

Sitali http://www.gaia.com/article/sitali-tongue-hissing

Lion’s Breath https://www.verywell.com/lions-breath-pose-3566757

Long exhale http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4386/A-Simple-Breathing-Exercise-to-Calm-Your-Mind-Body.html

Nadi Shodhana http://www.chopra.com/ccl/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

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