If there was ever an example of how the practice of yoga is a constant evolution, then it would be a reflection of our own practice and how that has changed over the years. Everybody has a different story, and this one is mine:
I walked into my first yoga class as an energetic first year Architecture student in 2001. I can’t remember the reasons for why I started yoga – curiosity perhaps – but I felt immediately drawn to the practice. There began my long relationship with Ashtanga Yoga; like an intense love affair (or an itch that just won’t go away), I found myself alternating between periods of practice that were either of passionate intensity or more casual and fleeting, but consistently through the years I’d always end up back for more.
Early on, I was focused on the physical aspects of the practice and was impatient to progress to the more advanced poses (youthful energy of the university days… and a huge ego, but that’s another story altogether). My practice and perspective has since shifted to a more inwards focus: somewhere in the midst of it all, I realised the expansive depths of yoga as I relaxed the urge to conquer and simply slowed it all down. I fell in love all over again with the finer elements of the practice – an indulgent inhale, total mind-body awareness, the synchronicity of movement. It was almost as if it happened overnight. It was also around this time that I began to explore other styles – hatha, yin, power vinyasa, anusara – and there began what my friends called my ‘yoga whoring’ days of skipping around town from shala to shala, absorbing as much as I could from many different teachers with nothing but a ‘beginner’s mind’.
It’s amazing what you learn once you show up with no expectations and simply absorb. Paying no attention to the things you know so well. The methods and habits. The structure. For those who find this behaviour odd and only care to religiously practice one style, it’s a case of ‘each to their own’. But the next time you walk past a poster advertising an introductory special for new yogi’s… what would happen if you diverted from course for a few classes?
What would it be like to play in the unstructured?
And therein lies the beauty of the practice for me, which is it’s constant evolution and how it can always create space for a new aspect of yourself to bubble up to the surface. I recently completed a 200hr Teacher Training with Mark Breadner of YogaCoach. And once again, boy was there so much more to yoga than I had even an inkling about. The wealth of knowledge in anatomy and alignment, physiology, subtle energies, pranayama and meditation gained from Mark has once again refined my own practice as I continue the neverending exploration of self.
I used to think that I had to practise yoga everyday. Which meant hauling ass to the shala and doing a strenuous practice for 90 minutes, even if I was tired. Believe me, I would gladly go to the shala everyday but these days I take a closer look at what I really need first (and what time permits). These days it may be a gentle yin practice, or practising with modifications and less vinyasa between poses. Or a dynamic flow class. Or 30 minutes sitting in pranayama and meditation, so I don’t give myself a hard time about not having gone to class if I realistically didn’t have time or energy for it in the first place.
I love the freedom of relinquishing control, and how my perspective on yoga / life / relationships / self continually shifts with my practice and vice versa.
What do you practice and how has your practice evolved?