A few nights ago, I took class from the lovely Julia at Bikram Yoga in the Mission. It was bendy, calming, fun, and a bit of what I’ve taken to calling ‘yoga circus,’ meaning a few funny moments where we realize we are all human again. Sometimes in a class, the group energy can take off, only to be redirected by one or two people. These moments used to make me wonder through all sorts of possibilities, but now mostly make me laugh.
Anyway, towards the end Julia said something to the effect that in yoga we don’t really care what you have accomplished. After feeling happiness in a backbend, I was caring about what I had accomplished! She went on to say, we care how you are growing, learning, and trying. That I can understand.
When students ask how often they should practice Bikram’s series, he would say, “How often do you drink water?” “How often do you go to the bathroom?” In other words, every day!
These two ideas came together after class and I was inspired to again view my own yoga practice this way and pass this on to my students. Yoga isn’t something that is ever over, ever enough, ever done. We don’t drink 8 glasses of water once in our lives, say to ourselves “that felt good; I did a good job,” and then never do it again! We keep at it, maintaining our health, learning how our bodies feel over time when we drink enough water and when we don’t. We don’t say, “well, I loved my family pretty fully today, so I think I’m done now,” and then never love them again. We continue to love and learn more about loving and grow in love as we do so.
The same is true of yoga. Bikram likes to answer the question of “what is yoga?” with the simple answer of “everything.” Yoga is life. Yoga is loving. Yoga is responsibility and relaxation. Yoga is giving and sharing. Yoga cannot be accomplished or finished, but is instead a way for us to live and prolong our ability to live well–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
When I went to yoga teacher training, I realized by the second week or so that I thought I was going to find the culmination of my life’s practice there. I found instead a new beginning. Reaching for what we may feel as high points is certainly a fun goal and a worthy one, but it’s so satisfying to me to know that yoga is with me my whole life, whether I’m riding the wave or being tossed under by the wave.