The Heart of Yoga

Focusing on the internal vs. the external in our practice

If you go to a yoga class but don't drink green juice after, did you really go? I thought this after leaving Yoga Vida the other day, where several attendees rushed out of the studio and straight to the juice bar up the street, their sparkly leggings glinting in the winter sunlight.

Don't get me wrong - I love wearing cute yoga clothes, and I have a juicer (which I use less than I should), but these days it seems like yoga is synonymous with Lululemon pants and retreats in "exotic" places. As I've delved into the world of fancy New York studios, it's easy to think of yoga as a glamorous lifestyle that comes at a high price tag. But what is yoga without the zen atmosphere and props?


Being Selfish

Yoga is a way to connect with our internal selves and let go of all the external distractions around us. How often do we get to be selfish and truly focus on what's inside rather than the chatter of the outside world? 

When I first started learning yoga from my mom, we practiced at home and only had one yoga mat. We traded off who got to use it, and the other person would do yoga on the bare floor. I wore XL t-shirts and tucked them into sweatpants, so they wouldn't fall around my face when I did downward dog. Yoga was a way for me to understand myself - my challenges, fears, and limitations. It never seemed glamorous, and there wasn't a financial barrier to practicing. It was truly yoga for myself and no one else.

When I get caught up in the "fluff" of yoga, I try and remind myself what the heart of the practice is about. Rarely do we get time to focus on our true selves, but getting to know our bodies and minds better is critical to helping us grow. Whether through yoga or a five minute mindfulness practice, think about the three ideas below and how you can connect more with yourself every day.

3 Ways to Connect

1. Learning our edge - In the physical practice, we learn how deep we can go in a pose, but we also learn to back off. Yoga helps us find our limitations and accept them, rather than push forward for the sake of achieving a goal. At the same time, we learn to grow past our limits through consistent practice. 

When you grow uncomfortable in a pose, think about if you can hold the pose for one more breath to challenge yourself. 

2. Checking our egos - Through the practice, we learn more about what feeds our egos and how we can resolve them. 

Next time you are doing a pose think about if you chose a variation because it felt right for your body, or if you chose it because it was more challenging or it looked cooler.

3. Finding what helps us self regulate - We all have ways that help us feel more grounded and calmer. Yoga can unlock those tools if we stay present and acknowledge our feelings without judgement.

If you feel overwhelmed in a pose, think about whether focusing your gaze on a steady point or focusing on your breath helps you calm down.