Were someone to ask me why I practice yoga, I'm not sure I'd be able to provide a succinct explanation. The relationship I have with yoga is pretty subtle and yet at the same time somehow deeply profound. As such, it's complicated. What relationship isn't?
I am a relative newbie to all things yogic. I began in 2009, specifically to participate in a sponsored 'Yogathon' in aid of Action on Addiction for which I was sponsored to do an arduous number of sun salutations at the gorgeous Alchemy yoga centre in Camden. Yoga, of course, isn't about aesthetics, and traditionalists would take issue with the fact that I tend to practice in a multi purpose studio surrounded by mirrors, let alone my affinity for beautiful practice spaces of which the Alchemy certainly is one.
So, I started from scratch and worked hard to ensure I'd survive the Yogathon (which I did, albeit suffering something akin to tennis elbow for the following 3 days from all the press up chaturanga or 'crocodile' transitions). I originally learnt with an Iyengar teacher, to whom I am indebted for his patience and persistence. My hamstrings and shoulders are tightly defiant, but the rest of me was (and remains) willing (most days, at least).
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Keep your heart open for as long as you can, as wide as you can,
for others and especially for yourself."
Yoga for me is about living and loving. I know that, after my three times weekly practice, I feel more open to the world, and to my experience of it. Yoga derives from the verb to yolk and I interpret this to mean the bringing together of mind and body. My head, whilst resting upon my body and rarely unaccompanied by it, is generally in a world of it's own. By bringing my attention to rest within my physical being, and my sensory experience, focusing upon my breath as an anchor throughout my practice, I stand a chance of bringing some quietening stillness to my mind, and my thoughts.
The poses are for me the means, rather than the end of my practice and whilst I crave the flexibility of some of my fellow practitioners, I try to avert my gaze and bring my awareness inward, letting go of striving and attachment. I seek to move through the poses, or asanas, gracefully never compromising my breath, and remembering always that I dedicate my practice to those I love, those I've lost, those who suffer and those I may have hurt. As I practice, I do so in a spirit of being rather than doing, and I seek to achieve little except the union of mind and body, to realign and restore my energies so that they might be directed more skillfully and perhaps constructively.
My practice is therefore, about living more fully, more openly and more serenely and about loving in the true sense of the word. I seek to love better through acceptance myself, and every aspect of my experience, and then those around me. Self acceptance seems to allow life to flow more freely and gently than the battle of wishing that things were other than they are. From my mat, I believe great things can be accomplished, though very few of them will be explicitly envisaged or aspired towards.
"It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but my own."