Why Do You Practice Yoga?
I recently sat in on a book club meeting at Monona Yoga Center. The book being discussed was A Way From Darkness by Taylor Hunt. It details his personal journey from addiction to healing through his Ashtanga Yoga practice. For the club meeting, the author himself Skyped in to share in the discussion and answer questions. It was an inspirational afternoon. One thing in particular that Taylor said resonated deeply and has stuck with me. When asked how to remain disciplined in practice, how to continue to get up every morning, get on the mat, give energy to this practice, he answered that you have to find your "Why." Capital W.
We come to our yoga practice for many reasons. Maybe we are trying to get fit. Maybe we are trying to reduce stress. Maybe we just tagged along with a friend and ended up having a lot of fun! But if you practice for a while, you may find that your initial reasons cease to motivate you.
When you experience some physical restriction, an injury, pain, etc your yoga practice changes. It is hard to choose to get on your mat when you can't do the same things you used to be capable of, when you have to move more slowly, or modify postures, or simply do less. Feeling good in your body is no longer a possible why. When the practice becomes challenging, you struggle with a new posture that you really want to accomplish, you struggle to build strength, or access greater flexibility, you find yourself being critical of your own efforts and self-judgment arises, difficult emotions that you just don't want to deal with, difficult thought patterns and beliefs arise that you struggle to hold onto or struggle to let go of - a peaceful state of mind no longer seems like a possible why. When the friend that first brought you to class no longer attends, when you find yourself making different choices in your daily life so that you can take class, giving up late nights or that happy hour, or choosing a salad over that burger, you may wonder if the is practice still fun? Is socializing and having a good time still your why?
Find your Why. When you struggle with thoughts of "Why am I doing this?""Is this really my practice?""Am I really going to do this for the rest of my life?"it is time for some reflection. It is time to be honest with yourself about why you are choosing this practice. What is your Why? Capital W. In order to continue, day after day, through the difficulties, the challenges, the aches and pains, the emotional turmoil, the tedious work work work, the Why has to be big. Bigger than the pain in your knee, bigger than the tears, bigger than that cocktail, even bigger than that relationship.
Find your Why. No one can tell you what that is. And it will be a reckoning you face time and time again as you continue your yoga journey. All yoga, every method, every practice is at its heart, a method of self-discovery, of self-revealing. If your yoga does not challenge you to look deep within, beyond the experience of the body, the mind, even the heart, it is not fulfilling its purpose. If you are struggling with this question, "Why am I doing this?"then you are deep within a truly transformative moment. Stay. Stay with the question. Don't resist it, don't judge its presence, or try to wish it away. Find your Why. The Why that makes everything else worth it. The Why that gives true meaning and purpose to the work. The question is your teacher. Settle into it, let it wrap around you and seep into you. The answer will come.
Why do I choose this practice? Because I truly believe that there is a profound spiritual truth buried deep within my awareness and my daily practice is a slow and gradual digging and cleansing and revealing, like excavating an important archeological site with a toothbrush. My Why is the need to experience the true nature of my divine self. That Why is worth anything I might experience on my mat, it gets me through every difficult moment of doubt and feelings of defeat, it is bigger than all of my questions.
Find your Why.