Yoga: A Reflection on My Thirty Year Practice
It's Never Too Late
Don't Ever Give Up On Your Practice! This sentence may sound like simple words of encouragement; but when I begin to reflect upon my ten-year-old yoga practice, the statement becomes mantra.
I began my yoga practice at the age of thirty-two after shedding sixty pounds. I was looking for a form of exercise that strengthened my spirit and mind as well as my body. Yoga seemed like a natural fit for my life. I soon found this assumption to be correct; however, it took time to truly understand the concept of yoga.
Like most individuals, my first experience with yoga left me with self-doubt as I harshly judged my limitations. Each encounter on my yoga mat became an intense competition with my own body as I struggled with various poses. I envied the flexibility of other yoga practitioners. I could not understand why I wobbled in tree pose or why my heels could not touch the ground in dog pose. My frustration with my body's imperfections grew.
I think the experience described in the above paragraph explain the feelings that many people have when they first practice yoga. After two or three weeks, people give up out of frustration. I was at this point, but I continued my practice. I made up my mind to pursue yoga. I accepted the fact that my form was not perfect and I accepted my body's limitations. Eventually, I began to realize that my practice was MY PRACTICE. This journey was my journey. I only needed to do what my body needed to do, and the people around me were doing what their bodies needed them to do. To compare my practice to the practice of another student was self-defeating and irrelevant. This path was my path.
The above revelation was the spark of encouragement that I needed to begin a spiritually and physically nourishing yoga practice. Beginning yogis must learn acceptance because a practice that is lacking in the area of self-acceptance will never be fulfilling. Ten years later, I am still practicing and I still make self-acceptance a vital part of my practice.
Over the years my practice has changed in various ways. After thirty years, I finally garnered enough nerve to take a class in an actual yoga studio. For years, I practiced exclusively at home. I was afraid that I would be the one who could not do all of the poses. I could not have been more wrong. Instead of being judged for what I could not do, I was encouraged to bulid upon what I could do. I also found something I didn't know I needed--community.
Yogis need community. A support system is the key to growing your practice. Since I joined my town's local yoga community, I have learned to embrace my authentic self. What I take from my class, I apply to my home practice and vice versa.
Continuity is important, but sometimes it is impossible, and--hey--that's OK. There are times when I am a devoted student. I crave time on the mat and enjoy the pleasure that comes from a regular practice. There have also been times when I am sluggish and I may go for weeks without making time for practice. Regardless of how I approach my practice on any given day, I always try not to judge my actions too harshly and I never give up. Dry spells may come and go, but I know that I will return to my mat when I am ready.
If you are starting a regular practice, I encourage you to keep trying if you find that you are struggling. Eventually, you will make your yoga practice YOUR PRACTICE. If you are going through a dry spell and have not recently spent time on your mat, try a few simple poses to get back into the feeling of yoga.
Wherever you are in your practice - Don't Ever Give Up!