The Difference of a Yoga Practice

Photo by Michele Venne

When we think of ‘practice’, we think of doing or thinking or saying something over and over until it becomes instantaneous, automatic, fluid, and completed without a lot of thought. Yoga is a practice. We practice asana on the mat, pranayama anywhere and at any time, meditation on a cushion and then everywhere.

In each of these tools, there are many techniques. Practice the technique, and it begins to have an affect on the body-mind. For instance, if we spend time on the mat in an asana class, we’ll feel stronger, more flexible, and we’ll sleep better. Anyone can practice using the breath to calm down, cool down, wake up, or connect with the present moment and the body. Beginning meditation might mean sitting and breathing for three minutes.

Once we’ve practiced that, we can start using our single-minded focus when we’re washing dishes, walking the dog, or folding laundry. All of these are pathways to understand our mind and the thoughts that constantly arise. If we recognize our thoughts, then we can respond instead of react when we’re in the thick of a difficult situation.

We work to our edge and still breathe, like we do in asana. We connect with the breath, control the breath, and in turn, gain control of our mind when the situation is out of our control. After the event, we can return to meditation in order to let go of what occurred and be present in this moment.

Is the practice easy? Some of it. Is it easy to utilize these tools and techniques in the midst of stormy circumstances? Sometimes. You know what makes it easier in my experience? Practice. The more I practice, the easier it becomes. I can find what will work faster if I’ve had experience with the techniques before I’m in a situation that requires, for a better outcome, my response rather than a reaction.

With yoga, there is no perfection to attain. But we can practice and discover what works to help us through rough patches and recognize the smooth ones.