For some people, yoga is simply another way to work out and stay active. More power to them.
For others, yoga is an escape from reality, an identifier which differentiates them from the rest of the unenlightened and not so spiritual people. Too bad for them.
Some like the challenge of ever more difficult postures, improved strength and flexibility, agility, mental clarity, mindfulness, or the contribution yoga makes to the rest of their lives and activities...
We all find in yoga what we are looking for!
About a year ago, I started pole dancing - a demanding athletic activity infused with grace and poise, and allowing for infinite self-expression. As I became enamored by the possibilities and watching my body change, one day it dawned on me that I was doing yoga on that pole. And, if it wasn't for yoga, I'd never be on the pole.
I warm up with yoga. I cool down with yoga. I stay connected to my body, protecting it from injuries because of yoga. I have the elegance afforded by flexibility developed in yoga. I have the strength and endurance built by yoga. Every movement, every spin I do, I drop into a peaceful stillness visited many times during my yoga practice.
That is, until I had to perform in front of other people, who were mostly friends and fellow polers...then I lost my shit. Out went the composure. In came the stage fright. But that's another story.
Back to yoga.
I can't think of anything I've done in the last 20 years that has not been enhanced and informed by my yoga practice. This includes not just physical activities, but life changes, relationships, my world view. It appears that I've found in yoga a source of inner strength, vitality, health, and a mental attitude to keep me on track. I've learned to discern and perceive subtle nuances in my own mind, body, and life, and appreciate them. I've learned to remain present, be assertive, know the difference between "i want" and "i need," and appreciate what life brings my way, even if it does not appear to be enjoyable.
I've learned to be more patient. I've learned to savor the moments and to let them go, to make room for more moments. I've learned that attachment kills the inspiration to be fully embodied in my experiences. I've learned to recognize my own BS and not to take myself seriously, while greatly respecting myself! I've learned to never apologize for who I am, only for my mistakes, and that there's a difference between who I am and what I do. At the same time, I remind myself that my actions speak for who I am.
I've learned that if I can get myself into a situation, I can get myself out of it. Personal responsibility is the key to freedom. No one owes me anything. Life is what I make out of it. My attitude determines my experience of living, working, eating, relating, dreaming, achieving, and the level of enjoyment I experience.
Because, the dusty ol' yoga books say, the mind is both the source of suffering and the source of liberation.
And this is all i have to say about that!
Just make sure you have a good teacher. No amount of good attitude can fix the damage a bad teacher can inflict on you and your development. And just like the apple does not fall too far from the tree, your life and practice will resemble the life and practice of your yoga teacher. Remember this next time you decide to follow a clueless 20-something year old with nothing but drama in their life and matching lululemon outfits.
Onward and Forward!