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Have you ever felt guilty for not going to yoga class? I used to. There were days that I would keep willing myself to go to yoga, and as each hour passed I would resolve to go to the next class. By the time it was evening, I promised myself that I would practice harder the next day and make up for my laziness.
In more recent years, especially since I finished my yoga teacher training, I’ve been more forgiving of myself. I’ve learned that only a piece of my practice happens on the mat, and I can practice my yoga anywhere, and at any time.
Many people are attracted to yoga and become yoga-addicts because of the amazing mind/body connection that this practice creates. But naturally, our egos create competition, either with ourselves or with others, and it is easy to lose focus on the practice as a whole. It took me a while to realize that I was, in fact, competing with myself many days. My goal was to practice harder, better, and for longer. I did not step onto my mat to quiet my mind, but rather test my body. And testing your body is good, don’t get me wrong, but my results have always been better when my mind was in the game as well. When I took days off it felt wrong, and I was hard on myself with self inflicted guilt. The only time I let myself slide without any guilt was when I had a migraine.
Yoga is so much more than what happens on your mat. There are 8 Limbs of Yoga that Patanjali describes in the Yoga Sutras, and the first two are the fundamental guidelines called the Yamas and Niyamas. These can be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are suggestions on how we should deal with the people around us, as well as our attitude towards ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, and how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.
Once I learned about the yamas and niyamas, I began to understand the deeper purpose of yoga. These observances can and should be practiced on and off the mat. It is important to look at your practice as just that- a practice. It is always changing, sometimes even day to day. The journey will only grow and blossom if you allow it, so any guilt or judgment you feel will only hinder your practice.
Now, I practice at home, at studios, in my car. I practice while I sit in a doctor's waiting room. I practice while in line at the grocery story. My point – your yoga practice is with you everyday. It doesn’t matter if you get on your mat for 15 minutes or 90 minutes, as long as you do what feels organic and needed on that given day. Don’t feel bad if you're tired- you’re human and you’re allowed. Maybe a walk through a park is your yoga one day, while a sweaty power flow is your yoga the next day. For me, my yoga has been laying on the couch watching TV and loving doing nothing. When I feel it’s what I need, I let myself have it.
And, most importantly, I treat others with patience and respect. Even during times of stress and high tension, I try to be as mindful as possible when speaking and dealing with others. I do my best to treat people the way I would like to be treated. Maybe that’s your yoga- showing kindness to others. Maybe, on some days, your yoga is just recognizing what you need.
Morgan Gertler Pirog
Writer/Dreamer: Creating Things of Enduring Value
Morgan is a believer that positive thoughts will lead to positive actions. She found yoga several years ago and was immediately drawn to the unification of body, breath & mind. Her other loves include her husband, her pit bull mix Jagger and mermaids.