When I started studying with my teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker, this question came up in one of our Master trainings. It created a pause for all of the students because like you, we’d never really taken the time to ask, to reflect.
Most of us found yoga through its popularization in the west over the last few decades. It’s become a multi-billion dollar industry that’s hard to avoid. Some people “try” yoga but don’t find it a good fit. Others are hooked and embrace physical practice.
Over the years the market has grown as entrepreneurial teachings create new styles of yoga, trying to reach more and different people. There’s yoga for runners, golfers, pregnant women, post-partum women, men, naturists, kids, elderly, survivors of trauma, those living with anxiety, you name it, there’s a “yoga” for it.
For the vast majority, it’s just a great way to exercise and feel good. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, if we are spending countless hours and thousands of dollars over the years on yoga classes, shouldn’t we take time to reflect on whether it is serving us or not?
Arguably, all yoga serves us. Regardless of the style, physical yoga moves life-force, opening pathways that may be clogged up. This is favourable and should be one of the goals of all teachers and practitioners. When your life-force is is animated, its inherent intelligence and healing powers are at work.
A lot of yoga is “solar” in that it's very active, thus stimulating the adrenals. This stimulation makes you feel really good.
Heightened adrenal stimulation contributes to some of the modern health issues society is facing. You may push yourself hard and try to balance all of life’s demands: keep up with your exercise (power or flowing yoga for example), eat right, family and social commitments, social media (comparing those perfect lifestyles), working extra shifts/second job to keep up with the bills, etc. The effect of all this can look like poor sleeping patterns, digestion issues, mind fog, shortened attention span, interpersonal relationship problems, and despair, for example.
When life is super busy, when you’re already depleted, and you’re fitting in your yoga classes to build up your energy, but they are taught like an exercise class, your yoga practice may likely contribute to an imbalanced lifestyle.
When this occurs, yoga is not meeting your needs (which you may not even know) but is acting to perpetuate imbalance in your system.
Ayurveda teaches that the imbalanced dosha wants to be fed. This is both troubling and annoying; if you don’t have the knowledge and insight to recognize when you are in an imbalanced state, how can you know what your needs are?
When you live with and feed your imbalances for a long time, you forget what balance feels like. The imbalance becomes chronic and establishes the environment for dis-ease and ill health.
You can start with a simple assessment of how your life is going.
This can be quite revealing. You may be moving through life at a fevered pace and don’t have the time to reflect. When you do have some downtime it may be more satisfying to binge on the latest streaming series than to spend time in reflection.
Taking the time to do this sort of audit is very helpful. I’m talking about yoga practice here, but I’d strongly encourage you to consider reflecting on other aspects of your life as well. Is your job serving you, are your relationships healthy and nurturing, are you taking time to look after yourself and have some fun?
I’ve created a quick and easy worksheet to do your yoga practice assessment. I encourage you to download it and take a few minutes to address each of the questions. Don’t rush, put a few minutes aside, without distractions, and really rest in these questions. You may want to write down the responses that come up. This makes your answers more real and makes you more accountable for acting on them.
Watch for future blogs and video posts that will provide you with more insight on making yoga practice something that is sustaining and enriching.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of tweaking what you’re doing rather than making full-scale changes.
Good luck with your reflections!
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