Yoga as a practice in Western Culture has been debated more than ever recently. There are body pump style, Vinyasysa flow classes and Instagram ‘influencers’ touting tight bodies and upside-down challenges everywhere you look. This year, I had to dig deep in my practice to ask myself what yoga is to me and if pushing it is really the right thing, right now.
The deep historic roots of yoga teach us to remember that it is a practice for life. In so many cases, athletes can’t play football, basketball, ski, or live their sport for their whole lifetime. Pro athletes have a few years and have to retire (all except Tom Brady I suppose). Yoga is a major exception, a practice you hope you can continue the entire time you’re in your human experience.
There is a big piece of today’s yoga that I see missing lately – the balance, the sukha and sthira, the effort and ease, the way we come to the practice to calm our mind. From time to time it’s great to arrive on your mat, get into the now, and take away the rush, the endorphins, the hyper energy. I recently (in my 300HR training) learned about brahmana and langhana and thought – that’s it! That’s what we need more of!
To live your yoga is to make sure you’re serving what your body needs so it can be a journey that your human form carries, not occasionally dips into and forces. Going too deep in a pose, especially repeatedly over time, can do more harm than good. Yogis with strong practices that loved splits and load-bearing poses are uncovering hip and shoulder issues. To be already amped up and continue with a hyper-energetic practice might be dishonoring your body and what you need. It isn’t always about the win. Especially with age – why force a pose or 90 minutes of stress and pain onto yourself?
While yoga is an incredible practice to help release trauma from COVID and just life as we know it, I encourage you to seek out classes like restorative, foundational, or more yin in nature right now. The reduction, the soothing, the calm focus on love and self-care is an important part of yoga. Langhana, pranayama, slow and long holds, and a little slower self-love can be a great workout in its own right.
When you’re ready to ramp things up, the power yoga, the gym, the exercise is always there. Take time to think about what you need before diving into what you think you should be doing or what you see offered in studios. Be selfish and take care of your wellbeing, that is still living your yoga!