A return to yoga

Today I went back to yoga. It’s been awhile. After I was done, I thought, “why don’t I do this all the time?”

image: deserthorseyoga.com (that’s not me!)

I always think like that when I do yoga, and yet, I never quite seem to get a regular practice going long-term. I go through spurts of  regularity (that sounds kinda gross, huh?), but I don’t stick with it, and I can’t figure out why.

Sure, sometimes it’s because my back hurts, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that’s just an excuse. I mean, the whole backbone (ha) of yoga is focus on your own practice. Don’t compare yourself to others, listen to what your body is telling you, be kind to yourself. All things I could certainly benefit from practicing. If I’m mindful of my limitations, and don’t try to compete with some past version of myself, yoga does me far more good than harm.

Physically, it lengthens, stretches and aligns the parts of me that need care. It forces me to slow down, focus, and find the right balance between pushing myself and knowing when to say, “nope, that just won’t work.”

Yoga challenges me mentally as well. It reminds me to try to let go of the thoughts that tend to spin through my brain, like some song stuck on repeat. It helps me to focus on where I hold tension in my body, and encourages me to use breath to create space in that tightness.

Breath. That’s really what it’s all about, but it’s so automatic, I think we forget how powerful it can be when used purposefully. Yoga instructors talk a lot about breath and its role in yoga and in life. They encourage us to breathe through discomfort; to use breath to ease into a pose, and come through the other side. I’ve always taken that to heart in the moment, and understood the power of breath and focus through physical discomfort. But for some reason, it took me until this morning to understand that skill translates beautifully to the difficulties of life. Breathe through sadness, through embarrassment, struggle or difficult decisions. You can even breathe through boredom.

The thing is, we are so used to looking for ways to sooth or banish our discomfort, we don’t really know how to just be in it. We eat to ignore our emotions, we drink to ease our loneliness or pain, we zone out in front of a screen hoping to get lost in a fantasy life rather than deal with the shortcomings of our own. And while a little escape from reality is healthy on occasion, ignoring our problems generally doesn’t make them go away. In fact, the more we look outside ourselves to fix what isn’t working for us, the more layers we build on top of the true issues. The more physical and mental pain we cause ourselves.

Deciding to focus on the parts of us that need the most attention is scary, though. To sit there and feel that discomfort, just breathing, without reaching for something to distract us. Sometimes we can only manage little glimpses before we have to retreat. Sometimes we make progress on our goals and then we fall back for a while, tired from the effort it takes to confront change.

Maybe that’s why I can’t manage to get to yoga on a regular basis. All of these deep thoughts so are tiring.



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