Why Do You Practice Asana?
Practicing Yoga Makes Me Feel…
I feel empowered, accomplished. I feel physically powerful. I feel physically relaxed.
Why Do I Practice Yoga?
It’s spring and nearing the end of the COVID-19 quarantine…we hope anyway! I feel super inspired and motivated right now to engage in my yoga practice and my yoga teaching. Spring and summer have always thoroughly motivated me and now add the inspiration that came from completing a yoga teacher training recently, I am ready to get going.
“Practice is practice.” This is one of my favorite quotes. If you ask any yogi why they practice they will surely fire off a myriad of answers. For me?
I feel more energized after practice. My mind is still, making meditation more attainable. I feel empowered, accomplished. I feel physically powerful. I feel physically relaxed. My mind is calm. I feel strong. I feel good.
So many feelings come with practicing yoga, but the thing I learned while studying the eight limbs during yoga teacher training is to practice without expectation for any kind of result.
Surrender & Dedication
The fifth niyama, ishvara pranidhana, moved me more than anything. This, a life of dedication, of offering everything to God or humanity, is my new goal. When I do everything with the intended outcome of serving God and humanity, every other potential outcome or result eventually falls by the wayside.
I cannot practice yoga asana for the sake of serving God and Humanity at the same time as I seek a hot bikini body. Those two intentions would likely not align.
If I practice for the sake of worshiping God, my outcomes will be whatever he intends. Maybe he will make me strong and healthy, so I can better care for my family and those around me, or maybe I will remain the same physically, maintaining strength and flexibility, but testing my ego. It does not matter the outcome, for the outcome is now God’s, not mine. My only job is to show up on my mat, take the actions, and let God handle the results as he sees fit.
If I aim my asana practice toward a bikini body, I have ego in the way of my practice. With an intended result, my practice itself can be skewed and unfocused thereby potentially ruining the intended result anyway.
Am I Practicing the First Two Limbs of Yoga First?
I also have to check myself via the yamas and niyamas where my practice is not aimed at God. Am I practicing ahimsa or non-violence when I aim my asana practice and intended result? Am I being loving and gentle toward myself, or am I being harsh and degrading telling myself I’m not good enough unless I look a certain way?
This brings us straight into truthfulness, satya. Am I being truthful to myself if I say “I don’t care what other people think, I’ll just feel better when I…” lose 10 lbs, fit in those jeans, can bench X pounds. If you search deep within, what is the pure self truth?
Santosha, contentment, also arises for me here, the second niyama. Contentment to me means acceptance. Neither liking nor disliking my body, neither judging nor praising my yoga practice, just pure neutral acceptance.
When I am fully present in the here and now, in my body space, I can much more easily be in contentment. For it is the mind space that carries me into judgment or comparison to the past, and praise, looking at my progress and expecting more and more progress to occur in the future. In the present body space, with all of my actions intended for nothing but the pleasure of God, I see this as how to reach samadhi.
This is what my practice no longer feels like an accomplishment nor something to judge on my progress from yesterday. This is when my body no longer feels like a prize to please the eyes and bodies of others. My practice becomes just that – practice. And my body feels just that, a body or vessel secured to carry my soul so it can do God’s work.
I’d say “I’ll aim for the day when…” but even to say that would again be putting an expectation on the results of practice. Instead, I’ll just hope and maybe muse that one day after practice someone asks ‘how do you feel’ and I’ll say ‘I feel practiced.’