Staying steady with anything can be a challenge. Things might get off to a good start but then like a classic fable, obstacles, and challenges always arise in our path. For example, have you ever tried to alter your diet in some way, let’s say to minimize the amount of sugar you want to consume. First two days are good; smooth sailing even. Then your co-worker shows up, plate of brownies in hand. How many times have we won that battle? First your fighting the brownie….then your fighting FREE brownie. Only the strong survive 🙂 However, if we can stay our course we will taste all the benefits that come from sticking with a healthy diet change. A consistent practice with Yoga is no different. In fact the more regular and consistent you can make your practice, the more you will experience a deepening of its benefits, as well as gaining insight from your practice in more and more subtle ways. It begins with the body and gradually over time and steady practice naturally evolves into the mind, heart, and spirit. A steady, daily practice is like the polishing of a tarnished and rusted piece of metal. Rather than making the metal stronger, better, more flexible, etc… we instead find that we are only uncovering those qualities that were inside of us all along. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali shed a bright light on Yoga practice. Here we’ll examine how this ancient wisdom can help shine light on our own practice, as well as gain an understanding of the benefits that come from a regular Yoga practice.
The Yoga Sutras are a 2500-year-old text that lays out the first organized systemization of Yoga practice dispensed by a legendary figured named Patanjali. This book is pretty much Yoga Psychology 101. It lays out the inner practice of Yoga and if applied to the physical practice of Yoga helps us to access the heart of Yoga practice experienced as an opening of our own heart. We gain entrance to the heart through the quieting of the mind and body. Yoga is defined in Sutra 1:2 as, “the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind-stuff.” A little further on, Patanjali explains how we can go about filling the tall order of stilling the mind. Sutra 1:12 states, “The mental fluctuations are restrained by practice and non-attachment.” For now, we are going to focus on the practice portion of this Sutra. The next Sutra 1:13 describes the loose term practice but keeps it fairly broad stating, “Of these two, effort towards steadiness of mind is practice.” As many of you have experienced within your practice that the physical practice of Yoga coupled with a deep awareness and focus on the breath is one of a myriad of ways to cultivate stillness of mind. Finally, Patanjali talks about how our practice will become strongly grounded. Sutra 1:14 states, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.” This final tidbit of direction is a key within our Yoga practice, as well as within any practice to create a strong foundation and habit so that when we meet an obstacle or challenge on our pathway we won’t feel defeated or lacking in some way.
What type of practice here at Razz quiets the mind for you? Is it a strong, heated vinyasa, a mindful gentle movement class, yoga nidra, or does it lie somewhere in between all that? We all have varied experiences when practicing and we each may respond differently to the same type of practice. This doesn’t make it so that one is better than the other, but rather makes it so that there is a perfect Yoga for you. This might show up as varying the types of classes you take each week. An example of this would be, rather than taking (4) heated vinyasas each week leaving your body no time for active recovery, you might take (3) and instead add in (1) restorative or gentle practice to create balance in your body/mind.
Before we can set out on our path to a steady yoga practice, or really steadiness in anything, it is an important practice to become aware of the what obstacles you may encounter as you move forward. In this way, we gain a deeper awareness of ourselves and can gain insight into how to overcome, persevere or transform those obstacles. Take a moment here, breathe in deeply, exhale fully and ask yourself these questions:
What obstacles tend to get in the way of staying steady with your Yoga practice?
What do you do when you meet one of those obstacles?
How does it feel when you make it past those obstacles?
Now that we’ve set our sights on the target of consistency, we’re aware of the obstacles and challenges we may face and our ability to meet them, we can delve into the benefits of a consistent Yoga practice.
1. Relieves bodily tension and fatigue, teaches us how to move in more beneficial ways and can assist in establishing good posture
1. Practicing Yoga when we feel tight or stiff or when the mind is agitated definitely has its benefits. After a balanced practice, our bodies feel lighter and more accessible, we may be able to sit more comfortably than before we began, and as we get up to leave we can feel a bit taller, as our spines have lengthened. As we learn to take bodily engagements (core, leg, arm, foot and hand activations) from simpler postures into more advanced postures, we are training our bodies and minds to move in more beneficial ways for the joints and for the spine. Practicing 2-3 times/week, rather than only when we feel sore or tight, we begin to see growth and progress in our bodies, in our ability to hold and engage postures and our bolsters our health off the mat.
2. Can help us alleviate and gain insight into the roots of our stress and anxiety
1. If you’ve practiced yoga postures, breathing exercises or relaxation techniques you have more than likely tasted Yoga’s ability to alleviate stress and tension, as well as anchoring the mind from the incessant chatter of anxiety. Again, just as above, with the body, practicing when you are experiencing stress and anxiety will help to minimize the symptoms, however, when you steadily practice through the ups and downs of life your practice can become like a magnifying glass. As we slow down, taking time to breathe fully and deeply and align our focus with that breath and movement we begin to not only be participating in the experience, we begin to be the passive observer of our experience. First, physically, we begin to establish a dialogue with the body. We listen to its cues for when we have more space to explore or we’ve met our edge, when the body is stressed from a posture or we have more time to hold, etc… These insights help us to adapt our practice to OUR body. As our physical (more tangible) dialogue strengthens our mental and emotional dialogue becomes more available to us (for some, it may be the other way around). The same way we observe the body we learn to observe our thoughts and feelings. This is beneficial in creating room to see our thoughts and feelings not as something we are or have to react to, but rather as objects that continue to flow on by unless we choose to engage with them. This is no easy task, to be sure! However, a consistent Yoga practice creates the optimal environment to make this attainable!
3. Group classes are a great way to connect and build community
1. There is nothing like a personal Yoga practice as you learn to listen to your body and spirit’s cues for how to flow, hold, breathe, etc… However, a personal practice is void of other people. Practicing together in a group style helps to build a connection with other Yogis. There are all different types of folks that practice here at Razz; the dedicated yogi and the casual business practitioner, democrats and republicans, men, women and non-binary folks, wealthy and more working class…..the point being, that we are all here practicing together and sharing in our experience of Yoga. Yoga means to bring together two seemingly opposite faculties. I have personally witnessed people, myself included, have amazing conversations, discover hidden common interests, offer support to one another, etc…to types of people we may never encounter outside of the studio. Being exposed to so many different kinds of people and sharing in practice together is the perfect recipe to foster community and a deeper understanding of different perspectives in life. Some of my most enjoyable times here so far, have been the conversations before or after classes with the people I’ve just practiced with. The barriers we may hold up or ways in which we may avoid conversation or connection are temporarily softened or let go of after a practice and we are more able to let folks in, as well as reveal our own authentic nature.
4. Encourages an attitude of acceptance, positivity, and gratitude
1. One thing that sets Yoga practice apart from other forms of exercise or movement is the notion of beginning where we are at, without judgment, shame or guilt. This radical acceptance of self is the foundation of all positive thinking and gratitude. As we begin to accept our bodies, minds, hearts, and personalities just as they are gratitude cannot help but begin to manifest. We start to embrace and enjoy the body we are in rather than trying to chisel our ‘perfect’ self. We replace our thoughts of self-doubt, self-judgment and fear with self-confidence, self-love and courage. Gratitude and Acceptance together are the base of the triangle holding up Positivity. It becomes much easier to see or paint our experience in a positive light when we love where we’re at and are grateful for it. There becomes less and less of a focus on the negative, anxious or fear-based experiences in life, and instead that focus is placed on how to move forward, create something new or nourish the environment to encourage healing and positive change in your life.
These are just a few of the many, many benefits that come from a consistent Yoga practice. It can be challenging for sure, to adopt a consistent weekly practice, but hopefully, this blog has helped you to identify your own obstacles with that, as well as shed light onto some of the fruits of this practice. As always, though the proof is in the pudding! Our Monthly Renewal Membership is a great way to commit to a regular practice, and if you plan on attending more than 5 classes/month it is the most affordable route to take as well. Not only that, but our membership also gets you a few perks on top of unlimited classes:
• Free Access to events
• Discounts on Specialty Workshops
• 10% off Retail Prices
• One Free Weekly Buddy Pass/Month
If you’ve been wanting to commit to your practice in this way but have been on the fence about it, the next time you’re in the studio feel free to connect with any of the instructors or staff if you have any questions, or you can sign-up yourself on online by following this link:
https://www.razzyoga.com/rates/, once you’re there click the “Commit to your Practice” Link under our Membership section.
Hope to see you all on the mat!!!