Yoga is NOT a physical exercise

Yoga is not a physical form of exercise for me. It is a way of life, of “thinking”, of being. There are physical postures, ways of moving that cultivate flexibility and physical fitness but this pales in comparison to the expansion, integration, embodiment, and wisdom that occurs with daily practice.

It does not matter if you do yoga just for physical flexibility and to get in shape. There is something to be gained, even with one pose a day, that cultivates a sense of well being and care for the self. And one more person engaged in well-being is a good thing for the world.

Some argue that yoga is self centered and narcisstic. But there is a big difference between narcism and vanity and self care. With narcism and vanity, there is a sense of hollowness, a great hole that must always be filled; the meaning of life placed in defense of the personality and the physical self. Narcissitic and borderline personality types have terrible issues of self worth, and use physicality and energetic means to fill themselves up. Using the principles of yoga, especially the principles taught at Kripalu, where self responsibility is key, I have found people with serious mental and physical disorders start to find the middle ground between the physical self and a self that needs no defense, that only needs acceptance in the moment. Finding that self acceptance in the moment is what yoga is about. Self acceptance is the platform of self care, and the building block of understanding one’s true nature, and the interconnectedness of life.

Yoga teaches that when we start with where we are, we can move with integrity to the next step. This starts with every activity, from getting up in the morning to how we perform at work and with our children. Our minds are so full of judgement that even getting up can be fraught with negativity about how we feel, so we reach for stimulants to blast ourselves out of it. For years I judged my own need for high intensity exercise, thinking that I was avoiding something, especially because of the severe pain I lived through in my late 20’s and 30’s. But in reality, sometimes I am sluggish and need to move the blood, and some days I need to sit with the sluggishness as it is a form of resistance. It takes time to discern this but a commitment to daily practice even if it is just 5 minutes on some days brings an awareness to what must be done. Because I have a 6 year old that has had different immune related issues, there are days where I will focus on one pose, even one as simple as tadasana. I stand at the kitchen sink, find the 4 points of my feet, draw the inner thighs up, the side waist up, lower rib cage back, sternum up, sides of neck up, shoulder blades down, arms down, middle finger in line with the thighs and shooting down to the earth, breathing up through the feet and down through the crown of the head…well you get the picture. And even that, sometimes I just stand and breathe, find nadi shodana and breathe. That’s it.

So yoga is not just physical for me. It is a way of life, it is a way of cultivating a means for self acceptance, self love and well being. It is a commitment to a way of life that fosters and encourages the interconnectedness with humanity. In a world where technology is king, it takes me from a focused sympathetic overdrive experience and brings me back into body. It is the wellspring from which all my work as a healer, mother, and lover of life bursts forth. It is from here that I return, and from here I go into the world. The commitment to daily practice reminds me that we are all one and responsible for ourselves and the world we see before us.

May you in your daily practice find the means to return home, to recognize your own sacredness and reflect that into the world.

Namaste #iloveyoga #kripaluyoga #lovingmyself