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3 Stories About ‘Yoga Practice’

Last night, I was thinking about how we call yoga “a practice.”

We say, “my yoga practice,” but not “my exercise practice” or “my workout practice.”Should we? What is the difference? Here are some ideas, which may be right or wrong:

  1. Competition

  2. Duration

  3. Ego

  4. Intention

What is the difference between practicing to achieve a challenging arm balance and practicing to achieve a max lift?

Well, my answer (right now) is going to be d) intention.

I think we have a greater opportunity to treat our yoga as medicine and as therapy.If we call yoga a practice, it means we are in it for the long-haul, not just until a competition or goal is met. If we are in it for the long-haul, we have to put our egos aside and accept that what our practice feels and looks like will ebb and flow over time as our bodies and lives change. Break a bone? Your practice is going to look different, but you can still do it. Cancer? Divorce? Injury? New baby? Your practice is going to look (and probably feel) differently, but you can still do it.

Here are three short (and possibly unrelated) anecdotes:

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Prasarita Padottanasana with Blocks as Props

Story 1:

Bad news: yesterday I woke up with acute low back pain.Good news: I knew what I had to do. It was a combination of my yoga practice and my ‘exercise practice.’ I diagnosed myself and prescribed a remedy, which involved a yoga block, a lacrosse ball, and a yoga mat. Sorry to keep bringing it up, but I had a baby four months ago; I do not expect my body to feel or look the same as it did before I was pregnant.

Story 2:

A good friend attended what I believe was her second yoga class ever. It was called a Level 1/2/3 class (whatever that means). This friend has been a fitness and healthcare professional for many, many years and is extremely body-aware. At this class, the yoga room was pitch black, so she could not see the teacher. The teacher called out the names of poses of which she had never heard. She had no clue what to do. When she got home, she told me she would have to do some YouTube research for her next class. Should that be necessary? Should our students have to research prior to attending an all-levels yoga class? Isn’t that why it’s called a “class” because the teacher teaches you how to do yoga?

Story 3:

I got a message from another fitness friend, telling me how awful it was that she had to use several blocks and a towel as props in yoga yesterday. Is this terrible? Why is this terrible? Isn’t that awesome?! Isn’t it awesome that my friend (and her yoga teacher) had the sense and knowledge to make her practice accessible, feel better in her body, and not cause more harm? I sure think so.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, there should be no shame associated with the diagnosis or the prescription.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, as students, we understand that our prescription and treatment is not going to be the same as that of the person on the mat beside us. If we approach our yoga as a practice, we understand that it will be ebb and flow, like life.If we approach our yoga as medicine and therapy, as yoga teachers, we should recognize that students are putting their wellbeing in our hands and we have a responsibility to teach, to give them the tools to feel better and do no harm.

July 8, 2017: 6-Months Pregnant & Teaching Yoga in the Park in South Surrey

If we approach our yoga as a practice, as yoga teachers, we understand that students are practicing. They are practicing with the information they had when they came in the door. If we give more/new information, it may add to their practice, but it will not finish it.A practice is never finished.

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