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What is a yoga PRACTICE?

prac·tice  (pr k t s).

1. To do or perform habitually or usually; make a habit of:.

2. To do or perform (something) repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill:

3. To give lessons or repeated instructions to; drill:

4. To work at, especially as a profession:.        

5. To carry out in action; observe:

What is this thing that we call a Yoga PRACTICE? 

The first sutra in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali is ATHA YOGANUSASANAM which means now begins the instruction of Yoga.  This is where we all start.  The great thing about developing a practice, is that it doesn’t matter what you were doing before, there is always the opportunity to begin.  Yoga has that wonderful ability; it can meet us right where we are.  All we have to do is start the journey.  Once the decision has been made to begin, then we can develop our practice.  Like most things, it is not easy in the beginning.  Our bodies may seem tight and inflexible, it might seem challenging or uncomfortable.   We are carrying years of stress in these bodies of ours and it isn’t about to fall away easily. 

Think about the moments in your life where you really didn’t want to do something because it seemed too overwhelming or because it was challenging to just get started.  I remember looking out into the blank canvas of an unruly corner of our garden one day and dreaming of an asparagus patch.  The problem was that this little corner was riddled with poison ivy.  The other problem was in order to grow asparagus you have to dig deep 10 foot long trenches. Then you have to wait a few years before you can even eat one stalk.  Thinking about all the time and work involved quickly got me thinking that maybe an asparagus patch wasn’t such a great idea after all.

And then one day we just started digging.  It was hard work, just as I had anticipated, but soon after the first shovel hit the ground, I got lost in the task at hand.  I wasn’t worried about the poison ivy.  We were planting asparagus!  I was able to get lost in the joy of the moment. And so, every morning I would wake up and dig a little, rip out another root of that dreaded ivy.  Eventually all the hard work paid off.  Every spring is now filled with an abundant harvest.

 Make a time commitment to your practice.  It might start out to be once a week, or twice a week, or every morning for 15 minutes.  Determine the time frame that will work for you and then, be consistent.  Being consistent in your practice is where real change can occur.

  Once in class, we have to remind ourselves that we are not in a competition.  There is no race to be won here.  And if there were it would certainly be the tortoise winning it.  It is not about how fast we move or how fast we learn.  Let go of comparing yourself with other students.  You are exactly where you should be for you. As my husband would say: “Do your best and forget the rest.”  Find the joy in your own progress.  There will be days when you are sore and that is okay.  The best way to alleviate soreness is to keep practicing.  It is like waking up on a chilly morning and feeling a little creaky.  Once you start moving about, the creakiness dissipates.  It is important to keep moving.  However, soreness and pain are two very different things.  There should never be pain and you should never push through pain. That is where serious injury occurs.  By developing a practice you will develop a greater awareness of the body and be able to tell the difference.

  Begin.  Make a commitment.  Be consistent. Find the joy in the moment.   Are you ready to begin your yoga practice?

 

Joann Burnham, E-RYT, is the founder of Dharma Yoga Nantucket and  the Nantucket Yoga Festival.  She lives and teaches on island year round. Visit http://dharmayoganantucket  and  http://nantucketyogafestival.com She can be reached at  [email protected]