What really happens when we step onto the mat? What pulls us in day after day after decade?
It’s not discipline. It’s not discipline the same way falling into into bed after a long day isn’t discipline, or wanting to drink water isn’t discipline, or brushing teeth isn’t discipline. It’s natural, what the body wants, what the mind wants when it is clear, centered, happy.
Of course, we find ways to turn the natural into the forced, telling ourselves what we must do, should do, turning the good into a punishment for the bad. But that’s not what pulls us, willingly, into the daily difficulty that makes us feel stronger, better, lighter, clearer.
The energy that invites us to practice every day is the desire to feel good.
Really good. Good at every level, good all the way through, inside out and outside in. It’s innate, natural, to all of us, to want to feel our best, always. That’s why yoga was created thousands of years ago, adapting and evolving as we do.
Which is not to say things haven’t gotten a bit weird. They have. Yoga stretched from esoteric physical-philosophical techniques to pop-music choreographed group fitness classes, became an industry, supported fashion revolutions, and kept that whole look as we suddenly switched to virtual.
To be clear: I love group fitness. The outfits, the up-energy, the vibe created by people gathering together in devotion to the fit life. I was devastated when Equinox closed, even though my teaching focus has been private lessons for many years. I miss it still. Yoga is the best reason to come together, to connect with others who love to work into feeling truly good.
But yoga is not choreography. It is not the outfits, the getting-lost-in-the-crowd and losing-yourself-in-the-music. Yoga is a place of the realest reality, where we flow not to get lost but to find, rediscover, remember ourselves.
And to learn what we never knew.
It’s the individuality of yoga that really works. In the crowd, we try our best to be like others, average. One on one, we can see that there is nothing average within. Each of us begins the journey with a completely unique body, mind, vision for what the future will bring.
Individually, we realize that we are not trying to mold our body to the pose, to the typecast of a yoga body, but to reveal what is waiting within us. The posture is a place to work the body. The body is the place to work the mind. The mind opens, clears itself to direct, empower the breath.
Then there is magic. And that magic is what we seek when we step onto the mat, day after day after decade.