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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why I Practice Yoga

I was scrolling through social media this morning. I happened to realize how many buzzfeeds I receive about yoga, top reason why you should practice, top 5 things you shouldn't say in a yoga class, top 20 reasons you should practice a headstand, top 10 reasons why you shouldn't practice a headstand, etc. It got me thinking, why does any of that matter? Yoga is first and foremost a personal practice. Any top 10 list should not define what makes you practice or not practice yoga. There is no list of rights or wrongs, of does or don'ts, or yeses or nos, there is only yoga.

The best way for me to explain this logic is to tell you why I practice yoga, not to be relatable or inspiring but because that is all I know.

Hike on JMT, Yosemite
When I first began my yoga practice, I began to gain flexibility. This a a very common reason why one chooses to go to a yoga class, and after a few classes I definitely began to see the benefits in my body. I could touch my toes, I could bend my knees without pain, I could sit indian style with a straight spine without my lower back killing me. I felt the benefits of yoga in my physical body, and I liked it. Though, I still did not understand why laying on the floor at the end of the class in silence was beneficial to my body, or why we would take so much take before the practice setting "an intention". I wanted to just get into the poses and sweat.

Rewind just for a moment - I have anxiety. Yes, I have a mental disability that turns into physical manifestations in my body that at times can be very uncontrollable and uncomfortable. Not wanting to pop a pill to help my issue, I began to think of yoga as a form of medicine. I began to realize that this "exercise" that I was practicing my not only be great for my joints, but also for my mind. Then, one practice changed everything.

Hike at Uvas Canyon
My very talented brother in law, who was my first inspiration to practice yoga, taught at my work for an event. As I was organizing and leading this event, my anxiety kicked into overdrive. Luckily, I did not need to be doing anything during the practice, so I choice to take it with everyone else. I wish I could remember the exact words that he said, but he began the practice with us clearing our minds, letting go of our stresses and worries and being completely present to our mats in that moment. I can not tell you how many times prior to that an instructor told me "to be present", but finally in this moment I was ready to do so. The practice itself was beautiful, every pose was exactly what my mind and body needed and for the first time I was not comparing myself to the person next to me. I was focusing on linking my breath to my pose.

Then, the magic happened. We began savasana and he played a soundtrack to a movie that I have since then been searching for. This song resented in my whole body. I felt the melting away of my stress of perfection, I felt my body become lighter with each second. I was not thinking, I was being. Tears rolled down my face and at that moment I realized what yoga was all about, that moment. The moment of universal bliss, where what you are doing, who you are with and where you are does not matter. All that matters is that moment, that instance. I felt so close to god, so close to the universe.

Hike to Eagle Lake, Tahoe
Now, I will say, I have not experienced that moment since. I have lived on a mountain for month, meditating every morning and learning all the best practices to search samadhi. I have backpacked on gorgeous mountains that preexisted for centuries before my existence. I have sat on the beaches of Maui with the warm blue waters touching my feet. I have done all these things, and still have never gotten back to that moment of universe bliss. Why do I keep searching? Why do I keep trying to find a moment that may never happen again? Because I have to. Because yoga is not about the destination, it is about the practice. It is about the journey.

I may never feel that place of bliss again, and I am complete with that. Why do I practice yoga, because each day holds a new journey, a new adventure, a new struggle to overcome. My purpose is to live with it, to challenge myself to continue to be a part of it. Trust me, I have my struggles. My anxiety will choose to rear its ugly head often, and every time it does, it gives me another opportunity to live in the present and to practice yoga. For me, yoga is the door to universe bliss and my practice is the key.


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