Twenty-five years ago, I began practicing yoga. I came to the mat to release the stress of years of competitive athletics and pressure of starting a new company. At first, there was an excitement of looking forward to the next class, wondering what new pose I would discover. Everything was an adventure. It was like a new relationship with someone you were falling in love with, the honeymoon stage where both of you are displaying your best characteristics. The practice continued that way for quite a long time, a ritual of spending time with myself, moving my body and focusing inward, being in the present moment. Everything was fresh, fun and exciting. But like relationships, my yoga experience eventually reached some obstacles, injuries and time commitment. Something began to shift and I started to feel that this is work, it’s not so fun any more. “Do I have to practice again today?” It can be a very disheartening place, to look at something that once was so exciting and now no longer brings you the same sense of adventure and excitement. This is where I had a decision to make. What is my yoga going to be for me? Breakthrough! This was an amazing place to be. Yoga was no longer a ride that I was being taken on but a path I chose to walk. This is when my yoga began an amazing transformation from providing entertainment to providing opportunities for personal evolution. I decided at that moment that this is more than yoga poses and personal time, that this is a lifestyle commitment I wanted to make, that this practice is something that extends beyond the mat and the time that I am on it. I was being drawn into this practice because I knew there was work I needed to continue.
For whatever reason you are brought to yoga, maybe to heal an old injury, relieve stress or were dragged into class by an enthusiastic friend for fun, if you practice consistently and long enough, it inevitably develops beyond the initial intention. As we approach obstacles in the practice that feel like work, how do we maintain a regular practice when it is no longer fun? Is yoga supposed to be fun? It’s something to think about, but I think it is more important to evaluate fun with regards to the yoga practice. I prefer to use the word joyful. Fun can sometimes border on the word “entertaining” or even “silly”. Definitely we can find joy in our yoga practice. And more importantly we will receive from our yoga what we are willing to put into it. We can have a devotional experience by bringing devotion to our mat. We can have a fun class by bringing an attitude of joy and a lighthearted approach. Just because the yoga has become something that is transformative and about self-study it doesn’t mean that we need to drown in seriousness. What it means is that we become the CEO of our yoga and begin to develop a grander perspective of what brings joy and contentment on the mat. It is no longer about trying some elaborate new pose, although sometimes that is still there, but joy is found in discovering that over the course of time and practice we have come to know ourselves at a deeper, more profound level and grown into better versions of our self. When we receive this type of compensation, we are much more willing to do the daily work, to approach these obstacles with joy and an open heart because we know what is possible to be found on the other side. We learn that we need the discipline, but we also are happy to give ourselves those practices that are just about having fun. We need moments to experience the result of our efforts, and acknowledge the growth and self awareness gained through yoga. Through our disciplined and challenging practices, we appreciate the playful, fun practices where everything just feels good.
Wherever you are on your yoga journey, in the honeymoon stage or in a blossoming yoga marriage, remember that no practice is perfect and the road isn’t always smooth. For this journey, you’ll need patience, poise and lots of practice, just like a long, successful marriage. So, hold on tight, you’re about to take the ride of your life.