The true aim of yoga is to reduce suffering. Suffering...what does this word mean?? By definition it is “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship” but a hardship to me may not be a hardship to someone else. With that being said, suffering will look different for each person both emotionally and physically. Therefore the process of a person’s yoga journey and progress looks so different depending on the individual.
No one can be better at yoga than someone. No one can be told they cannot do yoga. This idea that success is attainable for everyone who practices is what I believe makes yoga so enticing to so many people. Your practice may never take you into a handstand and that’s okay because maybe your goal is to find balance in your life or to feel more connected spiritually. Whatever you are looking to get out of the practice is personal and your own. This is your journey and no one is on the same path.
I am a person who has, for a long time, held my self worth in the physical body. I felt confident and successful the stronger I was, the thinner I was, the more advanced poses I could do...my practice has since transformed because I was finding that although I was holding these challenging poses, emotionally I was conflicted and confused, I wasn’t developing the clarity I was looking for andI wasn’t feeling this sense of inner peace that so many people talk about. So I continued my practice and I thought one day this sense of peace would just come. It wasn’t until I started to take steps inward utilizing meditation along with my yoga practice that I actually felt a weight lifted. Once Iallowed emotions and feelings to surface the true healing began. Now, I must say, I have made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of things I am not proud of, so initially, when allowing feelings to surface I felt a lot guilt which was off putting. But over my years of practice I have found that inner peaceI was looking for, I have changed my morals and values. I believe that this sense of maturity has come from my dedication and practice to this journey. When I started to practice yoga it may have been for a less genuine reason but the deeper I went the more I learned. There were yoga classes where the teacher talked on subject matter that brought up old feelings I didn’t know were there and I cried so much I had to chill in child’s pose for a while, there were times where meditation took me to a not so happy place and I thought I would never meditate again. This is my yoga. To me I know I am progressing not when I can hold a handstand for a minute or touch my toes to my head but moments when I am self aware, moments when I accept my feelings, when I am in a situation and I am able to see things differently, each day when I see that I am more open minded than I was in past years; these are the moments when I see progress and I know my yoga is working. Yes the asanas help us connect physically and mentally but they are a tool in the process and not the end goal.
Yoga is personal, yoga is your own practice. Initially I liked the idea of being a yogi so I started practicing for my ego and not my heart, each class I went to I let that ego go a little more and I found that my yoga was helping me on deeper level, learning that yoga is less about the poses and all about the process makes everything less intimidating and helps the person practicing be more accepting of where they are at so they can let go of judgement and competition. So when thinking about your practice, think about what you are wanting to change in your life, think about hardships you are wanting to work through and start the process; start your journey, not to be more flexible physically but to have more flexible thinking. Use the physical practice to connect with the spirit and the mind. Everyone has their own yoga, mantra and meaning behind their practice, let go of competition and let there be no judgment for where someone is at in their journey, you have no idea how far they have come or where they are going.