Yoga takes many, many different shapes and forms. Depending on the person, the day, the season, or the stage of life. When I approach yoga, I see it through the lens of a continually shifting recipe- one that requires awareness of how much of each part is needed at that time. These elements help me to clarify what I am doing in my own practice beyond the much repeated words, ‘listen to your body’. The medicine in the yoga comes from understanding what you need today to find something closer to an equilibrium. Sometimes this means doing what you least feel like. Other times it means completely catering to the signals of the body and mind. Some days I know that I need to break through my stagnant energy and do the last thing my body wants: sweat, move a lot, get physical, push my boundaries, and come through on the other side feeling cleansed, light, and energized. Other times the perfect medicine is like the yoga equivalent of curling up with a cup of tea and pampering myself. There are times that the persistence of sticking to a structure and practicing my least favourite postures brings to light reactions and emotions I need to deal with, while other times putting on good music and letting any random/awkward/pleasurable movement come out is exactly the release I need.
So, here is my yoga ‘recipe’, or, the elements of the physical practice that shift in proportion from day-to-day:
- Challenge– move through resistance, limiting beliefs, and negative habits. Sit with discomfort. Literally put yourself into the fire without shrinking back or running away.
- Nurture– nourish and heal the body, mind, emotions. Find softness. Step back, take care, protect and honour. Allow the balm of the breath soothe and smooth over any roughness and exhaustion.
- Persist– keep showing up again and again and again. No matter how many times you fall or get lost, no matter how much comfort or discomfort arises, keep coming back to yourself, the practice, and the breath. Keep practicing the impossible; even if you never get there, the journey towards it will illuminate what you need to see.
- Let go– release ideas of success or failure. Surrender efforts to something greater than self. Allow for individual experience to arise without expectation or judgment. Shed the ideas of what yoga should or should not be/look like, allowing for creativity to flow- for your yoga to surface.
What I continually strive for, and what I encourage all students, teachers and dabblers of yoga to do is to never get stuck in one place with your yoga practice; try new styles, try approaching your practice in different ways, and by all means, practice each of these elements in some way, shape, or form so that your approach to finding equilibrium is as flexible as your body. Yoga is a powerful medicine, as long as the right prescription is given at the right time. Lets be our own chemists and learn to adjust our yoga recipe to match our individual path to balance.