True confession time. I used to do yoga to be good at yoga asana. I wanted to make the shapes. I was addicted to hitting the next goal and the next and then, the one after that. And, after all these years on the mat, I still believe realizing a new posture or understanding one in a fresh way is one of the best feelings on this planet.
But, so much has changed for me through the years. Maybe it’s maturity – though I still feel like a total goofball, twenty-eight-year-old – the age when I began this whole yoga thing. When I stop and think about it, what’s changed is I am way more interested in what the posture does for my body and my mind – how it can help me heal – than I ever am about whether or not it looks impressive.
I was laughing with a student yesterday about how, yes, I have a picture of myself in standing splits in Standing Bow Pulling Pose from quite a few years back now. But, if you look at everything else going on in my body away from the distraction of the leg extended to its fullest expression behind me, the entire posture is not only wrong, it actually doesn’t feel as good as it does when the hips are in the right place, the shoulders are pulled into the correct position, the spine is bending in the correct place, and the back leg doesn’t lock out. If it’s all about chasing the “shape” of each posture, I think we’re all missing the point entirely.
What the focus should be is the ‘why’ of doing the posture at all.
Does it make you concentrate and become aware of the present moment? Does it make you stronger? Does it bring a balance to your body that makes you feel lighter after your practice? Does it make your low back feel good and open? Or take all of the tension out of your shoulders?
I think it’s the duty of any yoga practitioner to do some soul searching and know why they roll out the mat once or twice a week, or even every day. Everyone’s reason will be wildly different from the next, but you must understand your ‘why’ to go beyond achieving the shapes of what you think looks cool or exciting.
I’m all about hitting a goal within a posture, but the reason I work with my students towards these goals is because of the healing benefits they receive as a result.
And, I make sure they know the why of any sequence or posture we may be working on or towards. If you don’t have a ‘why,’ everything is lost. Then it’s just a strange string of postures together for the sake of… what exactly?
What I most want for my practice and that of my students is something deep and rich – a way of focusing the mind and harnessing the body’s energy for pure positivity and healing. I do the postures to deepen the connection and knowledge I have with my Self. And, I urge you to do the same.
Someone that knows who they are and begins to like what they see in the mirror has a power that most will never cultivate. That’s why we practice – to become more of who we were meant to be… stronger, resilient, flexible, and able to respond, instead of react to everything life throws at you.
It might not have started out that way – it might have been about a good workout, or to heal some minor back or knee pain - but if you stick with your yoga practice, you will realize your own power within this lifetime.
You’ll be comfortable in your own skin, able to step away from situations that don’t vibe with your energy when you need to, and offer your positive force for those that truly need it.
So, here’s to another week on the mat, not only creating shapes and chasing goals, but going deeper into our ‘why,’ of practicing at all. For through our time on the mat we’ll unravel the things that have become twisted and knitted together in the wrong way. And, you’ll uncover the person we’ve all been waiting for… You.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is a yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.