All of us come to the practice of Yoga for different reasons. But, I think we stay with it because it makes us feel better. For the long haul, that is the only rationale that makes sense to me.
I came to the practice as a way to manage an unhealthy back. It became clear that the only way to make my back healthy again was to practice everyday. And, to practice specific poses that targeted my low back (and the supporting cast of muscles and joints that pitch in and help support my sacrum). As a result, I regained the use of my left leg. I felt better: my pain lessened; then it went away; I could sleep through the whole night! Eventually, I could even tolerate running again.
Like many people, there are certain lessons I need to learn more than once: I found that if I lost the discipline of a daily practice, my back pain would reappear.
These days, we’re both able to practice each morning as our toddler daughter, Lucy, hangs out, plays or asks us to read to her. Our attitude is, by necessity, less goal oriented (“I must master this pose!”) and more inquiring (“what needs attention this morning?”). And, we each work on different things.
My time horizon is also very different, 20 years after my back episode. Then, I was impatient and felt my body had rejected me (yes, that looks weird as I type it!). Now, I realize that progress happens slowly with persistence. So, if I want my shoulder to heal or if I want to have the strength to hold sirsasana or pincha for 5 minutes, then I need to chip away at it. Every day.
And, my motivation is more mature. There are certain poses I hate! Because I don’t do them well, they feel awkward and clumsy, they force me to acknowledge that I still need to lose 20 lbs or because the bad thoughts creep in. And, the bad thoughts are: “I’ll never get this pose” or “my body type just can’t do this” or “my hamstrings will never lengthen”. So, I know intellectually that when my monkey mind comes up with that “stuff” that just means that I need to do it NOW and do it LONGER and recommit to every day. And, I’m forced to prioritize too. I have between 45 and 90 minutes to practice, depending on Lucy’s mood and level of distraction. So, I have to assess how I feel, what seems to need attention and what I know needs patience and persistance. Yep: I have to think about it and be open to the idea that progress will be slow.
But I also know that Judith Hansen Lassiter was right on the money: “Only do Yoga on days you want to feel better”! Frankly, the quote could apply to any movement based activity. So, I practice for me. It amazes me how many teachers SEEM to imply that in order to get to this level or that level I MUST include this or that in my practice. That doesn’t motivate me – and it provides a window into their issues (future blog post material). My metric is ‘do I feel better’? For me, if I practice (some days thoughtfully, some days mindlessly) each day I have less muscle tension, I’m a better listener and I can handle the unexpected more adroitly.