Dear Editor,I do Yoga every morning. It wasn’t always this way. For years, I wanted to be doing Yoga more frequently. I thought it would be good for me, for my stiff shoulders and neck as well as aches from an accident, happened decades ago. I felt virtuous when I did Yoga and guilty when I didn’t. I liked feeling virtuous.When my kids were little, I sometimes managed a few exercises in morning and sometimes they’d join in. Just as often, I’d give up when they arrived in the doorway wanting attention. Some days, they’d arrive before I was out of bed. Then, we arranged things in our house so they had separate bedrooms but I no longer had study, which had also been where I did Yoga. Yoga is a lifestyle and we all need to adapt it because it has a very positive impact on all of us. First, you are not always learning something new. Most of the time, you are perfecting something that you have been practising for many years. There are changes that one feels but they are subtle. It is not the joy of being able to balance on your head for the first time, but the acknowledgment that today, when you pressed your forearms into the mat, you felt a lot steadier in your headstand. These small changes are vital to the practice, but try to brag about that to a colleague and they will probably say, ‘But you have been balancing on your head for a decade haven’t you?’Along with this fine-tuning of the Asanas, the practice becomes more about the internal and the intangibles – the breath, the steadiness in the posture, the focus of the mind. A headstand looks like a headstand from the outside; only the Yogi practising it knows if the breath is steady and if the mind is empty. It’s not something one can brag about. And therein lays the secret to sustaining a Yoga practice. It’s not about the external but about the internal. It’s not talking about Yoga but feeling Yoga. It’s not about how you look when you practise, but your attitude towards the practice. Sounds boring, but trust me, it’s not because the external has limits. It’s because the internal is limitless. I am sharing some tips I have learnt over the years that have helped me sustain my Yoga practice. Don’t set goals and expectations for each practice or for the month of Yoga classes you just paid for or for the Yoga retreat you plan to go on. Goals are good and essential, but it’s not possible to set goals in Yoga. The truth is that it takes some people a few weeks to get their leg behind their head, and others, a few months. I have been working on that for years and can still only do it on a good day. Each of us is born differently and we must accept that.Also, our bodies change, and what we might achieve one day, we might not achieve the next. Hanging on to what we achieve, or reaching for a goal, will only lead to unhappiness and leave us de-motivated and that is certainly not the point of a Yoga practice. So let go and just turn up every day and see what happens.Yoga needs to be like brushing your teeth; you just get up every morning and do it, and if you don’t, you feel a little icky through the day. This is not so hard because once you feel the great benefits of a Yoga practice, you do feel rather icky and slow and unhealthy and unfocused when you don’t practice. It is easy to get addicted to the feeling of Yoga. So go ahead and be an addict for life!If you step away from your practice for a few days or even for a few weeks, forgive yourself and jump back in. If you can’t get into an asana that you used to be able to do, forgive yourself and congratulate yourself for just showing up.Finally, remember that Yoga is not just about the asana. When you are calm in a crisis, you are practising Yoga; when you tell the truth, you are practising Yoga; when you focus on the job at hand, whatever it may be, you are practising Yoga. Remember, unlike many of the activities we undertake to stay healthy, Yoga is something that you can practise until you are old. So stick with it – become an addict…!Nirmala Kant,Jammu.
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