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.
Recently I was taking a class in LA and I watched the most focused yogi ever:
This yogi was sitting in padmasana against a wall
waiting for class to begin.
A few feet away from this yogi, is a very Famous and Attractive
Actress (F.A.A.) trying to get his attention.
Not only does he NOT EVEN LOOK
at F.A.A.,… He doesn’t even appear
to physically HEAR F.A.A.
He’s so immersed in the moment… Focused
on his breath… That not even one of the
worlds most beautiful women can distract him.
Watching this got me thinking…
It never takes longer than 60 seconds
to tell the difference between a Dedicated Yogi (D.Y.)
and a fly by night yogi (F.B.N.)
And having taught thousands of students and trained hundreds of teachers,
I’ve noticed a few sure fire giveaways between the
students who get it – and the students who
fall off the mat entirely.
A F.B.N. Yogi will complain that she doesn’t have
a studio or the props to train.
A Dedicated Yogi will find a place to practice at all costs… Even when it means
practicing with chaos around you –
Or using no equipment except your body and your breath.
“I had my first baby and I tried to go to a yoga class, but my baby was too young to attend childcare at the studio. I don’t have any yoga props at home, but I turned the phone off and put in your Busy Mom Yoga DVD with my newborn nearby. Still the best Yoga practice I’ve ever done, even now that my newborn is a toddler!!!”
Dedicated Yogi and Peaceful Mom
F.B.N. Yogi’s will complain they need to be in a hot room, not to be in a hot room, have music playing, not have music playing, have a teacher, have only a particular teacher.
A Dedicated Yogi will not make excuses of why they can’t practice, no matter
what the reason is. They will be okay with life’s ebbs and flow. They will accept life’s ups and downs and do their practice anyway.
“I started practicing with you back at the beginning of January. As I followed you from Hot Yoga studios, to College Yoga Classes to Ashtanga Classes at a Sports Resort I learned to maintain the ritual and cultivation of a regular practice without the attachment to one environment. I’ve learned to work towards my goals but view my practice everyday with new eyes.
– Justine Lu
Yogi cultivating a regular practice
F.B.N. Yogi’s will blame their injuries on yoga poses.
…And give up entirely. They’ll say that “chatarunga hurt their shoulder or
padmasana (lotus pose) hurt their knee”. They’ll demonize the pose instead of admitting…
It is you doing yoga postures wrong or pushing yourself into poses you are not ready for that is the problem.
A Dedicated Yogi will look at their injury, and say this:
“I need to let my ego go and modify my practice. I may not be able to do everything I use to, but I have a bigger picture I’m working towards and this set back is temporary”.
“I have a group of friends that I started yoga with several years ago, now only a couple of us still have a regular yoga practice. The excuses were many, they wanted to try the latest exercise craze or they were to hyper for yoga or they kept getting injured. I’ve heard you say there is always someone out there with a disciplined yoga practice, transforming from the inside out when others are jumping from the latest exercise craze searching for something outside themselves, searching to change their physical shell. I am that person staying committed to my yoga practice through all the highs and lows of physical and mental discomfort.
The transformation for me continues to evolve physically, mentally and spiritually and I’ve never felt so grounded and content in my life.
Yogi calming a monkey mind
F.B.N. Yogi’s will claim they don’t have
enough TIME to get their practice in, read inspiring texts
daily, and stay on top of their responsibilities.
A Dedicated Yogi will say that she doesn’t have enough time either.
Then she’ll just get up earlier.
“Since I’m in college and work on
the weekends, it’s tough to get my yoga practice in
– especially with exams almost every week.
So I wake up at 5:45 am to get on my mat
and although it’s tough, I persevere
because I can feel and see the difference.
It’s this discipline that has given me a
Powerful Body and a Peaceful Mind”
– Tracy McFarland
And finally, #5:
F.B.N. Yogi’s will push themselves for a couple months,
and say that it’s “too hard.”
Dedicated Yogi’s will challenge themselves but will
work at a rate that’s safe and say it’s challenging.
And then continue to practice & modify as needed
until the practice becomes easy.
Dedicated Yogis will get results like this:
“Stacy I struggled with my stomach for years after having four children. Your teaching physically changed my body. My stomach is finally flat and strong, my back is muscular, and overall my body is firm and toned. I have a greater awareness of my body, how I carry myself, and my posture outside of yoga. And I’m more present with my children and loving to my husband.”
– Patti Lorne
Dedicated Yogi, Wife and Mom
Now it’s up to you to decide which results
Fly By Night Yogi…
Or Dedicated Yogi.
The choice is yours.
For the past twenty-five years I’ve been a teacher helping people live healthier, happier lives physically, mentally & spiritually. I’ve guided CEO’s, athletes, entrepreneurs, Moms and Dads through the power of yoga in creating leaner, stronger & more flexible bodies while connecting to a deeper part of their inner self and discovering lasting peace. Through my own daily practice I’ve learned a lot about what makes for a fulfilling life – a life that honors our authentic self and values our most treasured gifts.
June is a month of graduations and transitions to a new phase of life for many. My daughter is graduating and in only a few months she’ll be off to UCLA to start on a new path. Although she is probably tired of me giving her advice & holding her accountable for her actions, I can’t help share a few more lessons in hopes that it makes a positive difference in this exciting next phase of her life. I hope these lessons speak to you and if there is a student who might benefit from this wisdom, please pass the newsletter on as a graduation gift.
#1. It’s not what you have it’s who you become that matters. What you have & what you do will never be as important as who you become. In yoga we call it Svadhyaya or self-study. Learn to meditate on the self & find the light within. In the Bhagavad Gita one of the oldest & most read scriptures today, it is written, “On this path, effort never goes to waste and there is no failure”. While this particular author was speaking of the path of enlightenment, this quote can be applied to any effort we undertake in the pursuit of being all we can be.
#2. Find Your Treasure. By treasure, I’m not talking about material things or your net worth. Read more
During my years as Program Director of a chain of Southern California health clubs, I’d seen literally hundreds of so called stretching programs, exercise devices and slick promises to increase range of motion, strength, flexibility and lung capacity. Yet I have never found any of these to come close to being as effective, thorough or well rounded as Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga.
First of all, the sequence of postures in the system is extremely well balanced. Successive postures within the system are uniquely complementary developing strength and flexibility both concurrently and alternatively. Second, the concept of uninterrupted flow (Vinyasa) tied to an empowering breath sets the practice apart from every other form of yoga.
The traditional series of Ashtanga Vinyasa is the most physically challenging of all styles of Hatha Yoga. It’s equal emphasis on strength, balance and stamina can prove to be difficult for many students who do not have the time to keep up with a consistent practice schedule or who have physical challenges.
An experienced teacher in Ashtanga can translate the unseen fundamentals of this system into yoga sequencing that is adaptable to any level. By integrating the Breath(Ujayi), Bandhas (locks), Focus (drishti), proper sequencing, order and flow the power of yoga can be experienced by those who may feel that Ashtanga is too challenging.
Many of the classes seen on yoga schedules across the country today, such as Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, Flow Yoga and more are hybrids of Ashtanga Yoga. It’s nice to see the different styles that have evolved from Ashtanga, however it is important to know & understand the root source before embarking on your own style. An artist who did not study the masters, may not have the same depth of experience of knowing the history of the Masterpieces before them, just as a teacher who does not thoroughly understand the source of their style may miss the most valuable part of the teaching