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Knowing Yoga’s Benefits Is Not Enough

Why do many practice yoga in the US today? I took a survey recently and here are some of the responses I received:
*Improved function of the body
*In touch with the nature of the true self
*Be aware of the present moment
*Lifestyle and connection to community
*Better observation of feelings and emotions
*Stillness and steadiness with thoughts
*Improved health

We already know that yoga will reduce stress, allow you to sleep better, have clearer thought processes or improve the physical body. Even if we don’t know exactly why – we know of the healing possibilities. That is exactly why this article isn’t going to repeat all this. Nope, not going to discuss how it helps with injuries, tight muscles, strength or energy. Why? Because we already know all this. Yet knowing isn’t enough.

We can know plenty of things but making change is much harder. Excuses and habits keep us right where we are; set on a ‘cruise control’  or going around on the hamster wheel over and over.  Don’t give up though, the process of changing habits and identifying the excuses is just one part of our mind’s communication. As we start to practice awareness more in yoga we learn to tap into other parts of the mind, pause, take notice of our thought process, we can start to venture into making new and better choices. Possibly change the path or course we were on. But first you must be aware that you are doing this. This practice is hard; often just like holding up a mirror to look at ourselves and therefore we may not like the reality of what we are seeing. So it takes a lot of strength and courage to witness this. When are ready though it is quite powerful; the art of letting go of our past and future to just be right here where we are. Acceptance happens and allows us to suspend judgement, criticism, anger and sadness – often our first responses.

Along with surveying those who practice yoga, those that don’t were also asked “why not?” Here are some of the responses:

*“I don’t have the time” Many of us have legitimate reasons for this of course; from being busy with our work, family and school. Therefore time may be limited but it is not lost. We often don’t want to put ourselves first. It can seem very selfish but logically we know it only helps us in dealing with our life, family, work. Another consideration is that you feel you need to block out hours of time for yoga. Instead you could practice steadily all day long; a few minutes a day.

*“I can’t afford it” Just as not having time we also have important financial responsibilities. However there is a point where having more money does not increase happiness or health; most times your health starts to decline. Finding balance often in our life means that we have to make conscious decisions not to overdo or under-do; neither indulge nor deny. Whenever we do this, another area has to be sacrificed. Additionally there are ways to explore different and affordable options for yoga classes. Many studios look for volunteers to help in exchange for classes. Taking group or community classes is much less expensive than private lessons. Most important, only you can decide when yoga is important enough as it is an investment. When we set our intension too do something we often make it happen.

*“Yoga is for women” Men often feel strange coming into group classes that often have a majority of women in the room. However yoga wasn’t always this way. For a long time men were the only one’s allowed to practice yoga. Still there are stereotypes and definitions are out there on what yoga is today. There are many styles of yoga though to explore. What one person, age or gender is doing may not be for you. Just keep exploring. The best yoga for you is what you can do each day.

*“I am not flexible” This response is very common and may be quite true however isn’t going to help the problem with avoidance. If I want to learn to speak a language, I know that I don’t have to learn the language before I start taking a class. If I want to take a cooking class, I certainly don’t tell myself that I must learn how to cook before I go. Therefore yoga isn’t any different. The point of a yoga “practice” is to learn from a qualified teacher, experiment, improve and change.

*“I’m way too old” Not true of course. Often when we are stuck in our habits we may be at a crossroads and ready for change. Yet it is easy to just give up and use excuses because we are scared or afraid. Fact is we are never too old and the yoga practice can remind us of this as our view and attitude starts to change from within. Yoga can allow us to see our possibilities instead of our weakness and see past our fears.

*“I’m too tired” This is an interesting excuse because many also go to yoga classes even though tired, exhausted, run-down, depleted. Either way many are choosing the wrong style of yoga to help them feel nourished, restored or balanced. The practice should be balancing and complementing your life even if it is challenging. Learning to listen to the body, mind and energy more we can see past our ego and make better choices in our life that will leave us with steady energy.

Fact is many of us come to crossroads in our life where we know change has to be made. Knowing isn’t enough and many times we return to old and familiar solutions that may have provided some solutions and therefore we believe they will do so again. When it doesn’t work or we fail we often repeat again. This is why awareness is key to finding a new or different path.

As we start down this path we can allow for our imperfections and permission to fall off balance. Balancing is hard and the postures are there to let us observe our patterns. For example tree posture; part of the process of the posture is going into it, being there, possibly falling out and stepping back and mindfully coming out again. Feeling the entire experience. Each moment of the tree is going to be different and once we can let go of controlling it we can learn to allow the moment to happen. We learn to be just as we are, surrender to right here and see where it takes you.

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