I love the physical discipline of yoga practice - so much so that I practice it every day. When moving to the rhythm of the breath and refining the details of the poses, something magical happens. I can't always explain it, but I most certainly feel it. And I see it in the eyes of students at the end of a well-taught class. Something shifts. There is a sense of clarity and steadiness that we somehow reconnect with.
My wish, as a teacher and studio owner, is for people to understand that yoga is for everyone. And while you may be (as most people are) initially drawn to the physical benefits of the practice, it has so many additional layers to offer, if you remain focused on the intent behind what you are doing on your mat.
I am in love with this passage from Jon Kabat-Zinn on the purpose of yoga,
"The appeal of hatha yoga is nothing less than the lifelong adventure and discipline of working with one's body as a door into freedom and wholeness. Hatha yoga was never about accomplishment or perfection, or even about technique by itself. Nor was it about turning one's body into an elaborate pretzel...To my mind, hatha yoga is potentially beneficial to huge numbers of people at every level of physical conditioning...
For mindful yoga is a yoga of wholeness that has nothing to do with what your body can or can't do at any given moment, or with how your posture looks. It has everything to do with the sincerity of your effort, with how awake you are in your life, and how embodied you are in the only moment in which you are ever alive-- which is always now."
"So, as we practice our poses, let us practice not force but feeling, not violence but awareness, not intolerance but compassion. Let us move from fighting to feeling. From looking out to looking in. From goal to path. From winning to growing. From the ways of aggression to the ways of yoga." -Aadil Palkhivala.
We are served well on the mat by allowing this sentiment to drive the tempo of our practice. Some days we hop to the top of the mat, other days it's a slow crawl. Still others, it's a collapse into child's pose (and maybe even falling asleep there). The point is, your practice is meant to adapt, align with your life, and serve you in this moment.
I like to think of yoga practice as training ground for life. Within each posture is a lifetime’s worth of opportunities to explore and refine. Each pose is an invitation to identify where we are exerting needless energy, focus our attention and resources, and observe how we respond in the face of challenge or failure. We test the frailties of the ego by playing with our edge and learn over time to develop a genuine curiosity for the noise the mind creates both on the mat and off so that, ultimately, we can begin to see beyond it.
"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." -Dr Seuss
This is the quietest point of each day - the nonnegotiable time out of each day when I practice. Nothing too complicated - a simple practice and time to pause in meditation. On the rare day that I miss out on a practice, I feel it, and not just in my body. I'm less focused and make things more complicated than they need to be. When I maintain a rhythm of practice each day, everything around me seems simpler and it feels as though I'm more tapped into that part of myself that knows what to do next. I think that's what the yogis mean when they refer to the "vijnanamaya kosha" - the wisdom body. Hope your practice does that for you too.