For everyone out there who consider themselves a dabbler in one or more things in life (myself included), there comes a time when we have to ask ourselves a few questions about the things we've chosen to “play around” with, namely: Why am I doing this? What would it mean to go deeper? What's stopping me from going all in?
And since I'm pretty sure yoga is the subject of a considerable amount of dabbling out there, now might just be the time to try one or more of these questions on for size.
So…why DO you practice yoga?
The Three-Fold Path To Giving A Damn
One of the most valuable lessons I've learned from Ayurveda is that we are the architects of our lives and our yoga. Yep, our yoga has a purpose. And our understanding of it and ourselves expands when we take the time to look beyond all the modern trappings (the outfits, selfies, celebrity yogi worship, yoga “styles,” controversies, fads, etc.) and get down to the glorious or ugly truth that's at the heart of our yoga.
Because when it comes down to it, the real yoga begins when we take time to ask ourselves, “who and what are we really practicing for?”
I get that these aren't easy questions to answer. But what I know is that asking is the first step to getting serious about what your yoga is and does for you. So no matter how you answer, if you're ready to quit dabbling and jump in with both feet, Ayurveda suggests a few ways to ensure that every time you step on (or off) the mat, you're practicing (and living) like you truly mean it.
You ready…? Let's do this!
Practice For Who You Are
What does this mean? – Before I answer that, let me ask another question… Who are you? What is it about you that makes you unique? The reason I ask is because understanding that, is the key to cracking your yoga practice (and your life) wide open.
According to Ayurveda, each of us is completely unique. This basically means what works for you is going to be different to what works for the person on the mat next to you. It also means that practicing YOUR yoga starts with understanding yourself, which in Ayurvedic terms begins by discovering your dosha (AKA your prakruti or mind-body type).
Why? Because it gives you a place to stand, an understanding, and hopefully acceptance, of why you think, move, breathe and make choices the way you do.
Why does this matter? – Not all yoga is created equal. The way we practice yoga has the potential to support or sabotage our health and happiness depending on who we are. Pittas who practice too much hot yoga may end up with anger issues, kaphas who practice too much restorative yoga might end up depressed. Vatas who vinyasa a little too often might have trouble sleeping at night.
Your dosha gives you insight into your physical, mental and emotional tendencies. It provides clues on how to eat, sleep, move and breathe in a way that serves your highest good and gives you a foundation for establishing a life and yoga practice that supports who you are and want to be.
Practice For Where You Are
What does this mean? – We live in a world that is constantly changing. In fact, we ARE a world that is constantly changing. Our circumstances and the people, places, and things that we come into contact with inform who we are in any given moment. So where are YOU — physically, mentally, and emotionally — right now?
Asking this question each and every time you step on or off your mat acknowledges your internal and external environments and how they may have changed since your last visit. It also creates an opportunity to consider how you can practice in response to the space that you now find yourself in.
Why does this matter? – Everything we come into contact with has the potential to impact our state of health and well being, including our own thoughts and physical experiences! In order to truly support our quest for balance and bliss, our yoga should reflect where we are in our minds, bodies, and in space and time.
Ayurveda would say that our practice can only serve us if we allow it to respond and adapt to things like…
- our body structure and physical condition
- our current mental or emotional state,
- the time of the day,
- the time of the month,
- the time of the year,
- the temperature and weather conditions, just to name a few…
Acknowledging where we are and practicing yoga in response to that, deepens our exploration of self. It's also a way of reducing the stress that comes from ignoring what's going on inside of us and doing battle with what's happening outside of us.
Practice For What You Need
What does this mean? – Our yoga can transform and heal us, but not entirely without awareness of what needs to be healed or transformed. So it's vital that we get cozy with asking the question “What do I need?” today, right now for this practice and this life.
One of the many beautiful things about yoga is that it sharpens our ability to tune in and gain a better understanding of when we're out of balance. And one of the reasons that Ayurveda and yoga play so well together is that Ayurveda gives us a framework for identifying and resolving the roots of our imbalances (it's all doshas baby!).
Why does this matter? – Because answering the question “What do I need?” is often one of the most difficult questions to answer (in yoga and in life). Because a happy healthy world for everyone begins with a happy healthy YOU. Because many of us have tuned out to the ways our mind-body signals us to pay attention and take action; an unexplainable lack of energy, headaches, anxiety, digestive issues, lack of confidence, depression, heartburn, anger…these are some of the initial signs of imbalance, the seeds of disease.
And all are potentially within our power to address through yoga. And because…who doesn't want to be at their best?
All of this matters because the ability to heal ourselves and live blissfully is part of our natural intelligence and something we have access to all day, every day. The only thing that it really requires is for us to live (and practice) our yoga like we give a damn!
Yoga without Ayurveda is missing the point…
Wanna know why? Stay tuned… Over the coming weeks I'll be dropping articles with specifics about HOW to practice yoga for who you are, where you are, and what you need (useful stuff like poses, techniques, breathing, mantra, etc.).
Got a specific question? Let me know so that I can be sure to answer it as part of the series…