The Biggest Yoga Mistake
Imagine brushing, flossing, and rinsing your teeth twice a day every day for a year. At the end of that year you visit the dentist and get a glowing report of no cavities, hardly any plaque, a beautiful radiant smile. Since all your hard work and dedication provided such wonderful results you decide you no longer need to take care of your teeth. You completely quit brushing, flossing, and rinsing. The following year the trip to the dentist is not so wonderful...cavities, lots of plaque build up, and a dull, flat smile. Would that leave you wondering what happened?
This is exactly the biggest mistake anyone can make with a yoga practice. Over some time of doing a regular yoga practice, of once a week or more, they notice things like a back that no longer aches each morning when they wake up, shoulders no longer live up by their ears, they can touch their toes or do a handstand or some other physical act that is new to their body, the doctor informs them their blood pressure is down. And so they decide yoga has done its work, "I'm all better so now I can quit."
Just like quitting brushing your teeth would have some pretty unpleasant results, so does quitting a yoga practice. The benefits of both are cumulative, they add up over time to produce greater and greater results, many of which are preventative. Brushing your teeth today means hopefully no root canal next year. Practicing yoga today means being able to do a push up or not need blood pressure meds next year.
A yoga practice is different than brushing your teeth, though, as your need for the type of yoga you practice may change over time. When you are at your best physically and emotionally a vigorous, challenging style can be perfect. But sometimes our bodies a need a different type of yoga. Injury, illness or surgery may require you to practice gentle or restorative yoga for a few months. Pregnancy or recent delivery can make pre-or post-natal yoga the perfect practice for your body for a while. Emotional states like grief, depression, and anxiety are often best met with a therapeutic style of yoga.
A yoga practice can take at times a great deal of dedication. Fear that we aren't doing it right, that others are judging us, that our practice isn't good enough can easily prevent us from staying with our practice when it becomes challenging or when we are new to a certain style. Boredom, frustration, dislike of certain poses or instructors, feeling the class is too easy or irrelevant, feeling you don't need a qualified instructor, cost, etc. can make it easy to abandon your practice. However, if instead you pay attention to yourself and your reactions to these feeling your practice can bring even more quality to your life.
We all experience these and other emotions when we practice. The goal of yoga is not to make those feelings go away, but rather to teach us how to acknowledge them, accept them as part of the human condition, and learn how to be comfortable in our different emotional states. Plus, yoga has the bonus of giving us a healthier, more balanced physical body that is both strong and supple, ideal for the aging process.
If you have abandoned your yoga practice I encourage you to start again, to give yourself the gift of a healthier and happier, more smiley you. If you need some direction or guidance on how to do this, I'm happy to offer suggestions. If you are a regular practitioner applaud yourself for your courage to stick with it.
Just like it doesn't make sense to make the mistake of not brushing your teeth, it doesn't make sense to quit practicing yoga. Give yourself permission and practice the courage it takes to be dedicated to all aspects of your health.