Why practice yoga – or is it Yoga?

Why Practice?I had a Facebook conversation with a guy I really admire. He’s a Chirporactor and a Yogi so he knows a little somethin’ somethin’ about bodies. We were talking about backbends and he bottom-lined it by saying that you “shouldn’t try to be Krischnamacharya when your body is clearly not conditioned to be”. I couldn’t agree more!

We’re human though and sometimes we get caught up in our egos. Photos of Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Krishnamarchya are a thing of beauty. I love watching Kino practice her Ashtanga and Ana doing her Forrest gravity surfing. They are awesome, inspiring, amazing and all of those other words. But dig deeper and you might be suprised.

Ana started practicing yoga on a dare and credits Yoga with saving her. I’m using my words here not hers – she found her power to heal herself, physically but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally, through Yoga. Her practice shows that power. I suspect we all have a “story” about our practice.

I started practicing Yoga with VHS tapes back in my early 20’s. (Yes, I said VHS tapes. The gyms were practicing high impact step aerobics and Yoga studios were rare.) I don’t know why I stayed with it but I did. In 2000, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. (Did you notice that I’ll capitalize Yoga because it’s that important but fibromyalgia?! If there was something less than lowercase, I would use it with that word!)

I was practicing Ashtanga already but not hard core. My practice was never hard core. I tried, oh how I tried but I could never get hard core. My body just didn’t react well to it. I love the primary series but I’ve never been able to go at the typical pace of a led class. I felt like a failure because I didn’t fully commit to Ashtanga.

I started practicing with Ana Forrest. I loved that too. I studied with Ana for years. She is amazing and if you have the chance to practice with her, do it! Again though, it wasn’t me. Again, I felt like a disapointment because I “bailed”.

Why am I telling you this? Because I needed to find MY yoga.

There are days when I practice inversions, arm balances, standing poses. Days when my ego is allowed to puff a bit. I was smart growing up – I wasn’t strong, coordinated, or anything physical. I am still thrilled and suprised when I go into arm balances and inversions. I can’t believe that I can do this! Even when they aren’t perfect, even when they “fail”, I am amazed that I can even attempt them!

There are days when my body feels like it’s been replaced by someone who has never set foot on a yoga mat though. I practice supine poses, forward folds and breathing. Maybe a few twists will help and eventually I may work into the “harder stuff”. Sometimes the easy stuff is the hard stuff. I hate those days because they start with such pain but I’m also grateful because those can be beautiful practices that come to mean the world to me.

I understand how my body mirrors my mind and my heart. Sometimes I’m in pain and need comfort. Sometimes I’m in pain and need to find my voice or my power. My mat tends to let me know what I need.

That is when yoga becomes Yoga – a personal practice. I am so grateful to the masters who have come before me and who have taught my teachers and through them, me, but I am not them. I may never progress beyond the Primary Series. I may never achieve Iyengar’s more advanced asanas. I may never Gravity Surf for what seems like hours.

BUT I have poses that challenge me to grow, stretch, become stronger and more balanced. I have Yoga and I am so happy with that!

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