Have more than one reason to come to the mat. A single motivation is not enough. And some days it’s okay if a new yoga top is the thing that gets you to practice.
Respect your mat. But only so much. The mat wasn’t a hallowed space before it was yours. And though it may be sacred, the mat doesn’t have a monopoly on yoga.
Take what you need. It’s perfectly all right to build a smorgasbord practice, drawing from various yoga disciplines and philosophies.
Fall. It’s cool to fall out of poses and then laugh your ass off. Taking a practice too seriously is a breeding ground for inauthenticity. In yoga, seriousness has its place and time. And that time is not all the time.
Don’t give in to yoga snobbery. Accept yoga for where it is now. Don’t whine or preach about staying true to yoga’s roots. Just as a personal practice evolves (for the better, yo), so has yoga over its thousands of years. It’s expanded. It accommodates more people. Don’t shun them, no matter how westernized their practice. Dude, it’s their practice.
Respect other yogis paths. Respect how they choose to approach the discipline, where they elect to put their focus, and in what order they discover and nurture asana, pranayama, and meditation.
Be nice. Or at least try. Though there is no single right way to be a yogi, a central tenet for every yogi should be that they strive for kindness, both to The Self and to others.
Practice the right kind of acceptance. Though the most basic element of yogic acceptance must begin with The Self, it is not an acceptance of resignation—it is an acceptance of the way things are as a place from which to evolve.
Don’t force it. Forcing meditation and desperately seeking depth can result in the kind of artifice that leads folks to mislabel yoga as a pile of useless new-agey metaphysical bullshit.
Let yourself enjoy the aesthetics. A pose is just that: a pose. Any transcendent benefits come from what the practitioner brings to the posture. It’s okay to admire the visual art of yoga, to be awed by what the body can do. Yoga is beautiful, and ignoring that is absurd.
If you’re healthy, embrace it. Yoga can be about healing, but c’mon, we aren’t all constantly broken. There are times we need healing and there are times that we’re already enjoying a state of well-being. In both places yoga feeds us, individualizing our edification.
Learn to understand your body’s language. Love it enough to listen. And then give. Give it what it needs. With yoga your body will become a more comfortable living space, and you’ll discover you’ve been given more to give.
Author has been given permission to use photos from: Ashley Thalman Photography.