This Yoga Love Affair (Part Two): Making it Last a Lifetime
When I first started practicing yoga, I treated it like an all-or- nothing physical experience and approached it the same way I approached ballet and running: I had not satisfied my purpose until I was beat up, exhausted, drenched in sweat, my feet literally bleeding through my shoes. Being barefoot on the mat, making unfamiliar shapes slowed me down, but yoga was another physical, exercise-oriented activity. I did not conceive of yoga as a counterpoint to my rigorous routines; it was an additional source of passionate heat to add to my athletic fire.
After a couple of years of practice, one teacher training, and some major life transitions in my relationships, my habits, and my career, I lost the joy of making it to the mat. I kept up with yoga because I felt guilty for not doing my “good” exercise to balance all of my chaos. If I had not fallen out of love with yoga, we were certainly in a chilly, distant place. I practiced before or after I taught, but did little to cultivate any creativity in my own movements or meditations. Then, another late night at the office kept me from taking a class, and I found myself on my mat, alone in my living room, not quite sure where to begin. It was in that meandering solo practice, where I moved without being directed, where I listened to my body asking me to slow it down, that my love affair with yoga was reenergized. Yoga became a conversation. I did not get to dictate all of the answers, and in releasing that fierce control and desire to reach a hot, rigorous practice every time, I started to listen to the seasons of my body.
Turns out, yoga, like any relationship of length and depth, goes through cycles that echo the lives of its practitioners. Keeping committed over a lifetime means honoring the gentle moments of familiarity as well those blissfully spicy moments of discovery. In this companion piece to the December post, I asked the same yogis who spoke about making it past the one year mark to talk about their commitment to yoga for the long haul. Here’s what they shared:
I used to force myself to practice asana every day and I hate to say it but it actually did create some gaps in other areas of my life. Avoiding things that needed to be done in exchange for some time to sweat. I have since learned that the practice is so much more than being on my mat so I designed other yoga practices. I have a daily ritual of Saucha every morning, created a warm and inviting meditation area in my home to draw me into meditation, I observe my thoughts and realize when I am choosing judgement over acceptance and attachment over non-attachment.These days I simply trust that yoga is not a PART of me rather than something I DO. You don’t wake up every day and say, today I will be a woman, you simply are. That is my new yoga practice.
~Lindsey Kaalberg, Founder and CEO Ritual Hot Yoga, San Francisco CA
The primary reason that I have been able to have a sustainable practice for 10 years is routine. The regularity of Ashtanga allows the practice to exist independently of the weather, time of day, season, personal and world events, things which throw most people off. I don’t rely on creativity to keep myself engaged in the practice, nor do I need to constantly re-invent what I’m doing on the mat; I simply show up and go with the flow. The fact that the routine is established doesn’t mean that I can’t deviate to accommodate curiosity or different levels of personal energy, and I’m not so fanatical that I can’t take a break for even weeks at a time without feeling guilty. Yoga is not a lifestyle or an identity for me, but simply one powerful tool that I have to keep my cool in a world that is constantly insisting on me losing it.
~Steve Pyka, Founder, Asta Yoga, San Francisco, CA
Seeing the benefits of health & well being (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) that a consistent yoga practice provides, especially in an older body, is very motivating! Prior to taking my first yoga class, I was very physically active on a year-round basis with running, hiking, bicycling and cross country skiing. Now, almost 40 years later, I give credit to a regular asana practice as a big reason I am still able to enjoy all these other lifetime “sports.”
~Michael Robold, Co-Founder Yoga for Health Education, Traverse City, MI
Yoga heightens awareness and nudges us to keep “waking up.” Yoga opens us to deeper layers of the body mind. As I have grown in my knowledge through studies and experience, yoga has just become a way of life for me and self-sustains.
~Libby Robold, Co-Founder Yoga for Health Education, Traverse City MI
Once upon a time, in a land far far away a daily practice meant going to a studio and unrolling my mat every day. After becoming an instructor, my practice became a combination of self-practice and faithfully attending my favorite teachers’ classes. In the past few years, life has changed tremendously and has shown me a whole new realm of light, color and faith (opening a studio, marriage, opening a second location, pregnancy). In this time, my ideas of self-care, self-love and self-acceptance have become more refined; and now my practice has rooted itself in space contained within the 8-Limbed Path.
~ Adesina Cash, Founder, Hot Spot Yoga, Oakland, CA
The practice will look different in every body, and the path of its unfolding will be as unique as you are. And that’s the thing about love. You can only see it for what it truly is from the inside out, as a participant in the heartbreak and passion, the lulls and the torrents. What makes yoga work for you will not be what makes yoga work for me, but we can learn from each other. We can learn from the wisdom of those yogis who have made their practices sustainable through all the seasons of their lives. We can be inspired by the sparks they feel and the challenges they have faced. We can explore within, with open honest eyes, and choose to commit (or not) to a lifetime of this yoga love affair.