Practice not a Workout

Every Sunday night, when I am just about to fall asleep, I start to mentally plan for my week ahead. I make a meal plan in my head, I make a workout plan, I think about what blogs to write, what groceries to buy, what my work schedule is like, and how to fit it all in around everything that is going on. It seems like a lot to think about, but this is this time where I have my best ideas and the most clarity.

A few Sunday night’s ago, I had a really big “ah-ha” moment. It became clear that my focus lately had shifted from yoga as a practice and had leaned more towards yoga as a workout. I found myself very focused on wanting to make my body into the best shape it could be in for my upcoming wedding(I call this plan I have operation: ball and chain!). The problem in doing this, is that, when you become focused on results you lose sight of the real benefits of yoga.

I hadn’t really noticed this was going on until I sat down with my weekly that night and realized I was dreading the workouts. I was dreading the hard energy that I was going to put in, the guilt over what I was eating, the disappointment over the numbers on the scale, and the lack of fun I was having while doing all of this stuff. What I failed to realize in that moment is that becoming physically fit is a product of yoga, but it is not the goal of yoga. If you make yoga about the workout, just like the gym, you lose desire. You begin to resent the workout because it may not provide you with best results you were hoping for as quick as you had wanted.

You see, yoga is about more then just the losing weight and getting toned. Sure, if you show up everyday you will see those results, but like I had just said becoming physically fit is a product, but it is not the goal of yoga. Last week I attended a spyin class. This class is 30 minutes of spinning and 30 minutes of yin yoga. During the yoga section I remember thinking to myself “I need more spin I need to burn some more calories”. My mind was also racing a mile a minute trying to solve a conflict I had been having with a family member at the time. I kept thinking I should be at home messaging her, I should be working on fixing this, I should be running with the dog, I just kept thinking and couldn’t stop. When we went into savasana, we were told to “just relax and take this time to slow everything down”. At this moment my mind shifted from yoga as a workout and I allowed myself to enjoy yoga as a practice. My mind quieted, and as as soon as the chatter stopped, the flood gates opened. I found myself crying, and crying. Not for the fight I was having with my sister but for the space that the room was holding for me. I was crying because the stillness cleared my mind and stopped me from focusing on what really didn’t matter anymore. That was what the class had to offer me that night stillness and quiet in a world I had made chaotic.

So, what I learned from this moment is two important things: 1) every practice, every day, yoga offers me something new that I can use in my life and, 2) when you stop focusing on the pounds you are going to lose from this yoga class, or the great ass you will get from the spin class, and start to focus on the breath, the stillness, the open yourself up to the knowledge that is being offered, you really receive the whole package Practice and a Workout.

Jennifer Toole

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