Dependence On Yoga? ~ Paul Gold

Via elephant journal
on Dec 11, 2011
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It’s happened more than once that a student seems upset or offended by the idea that he or she is somehow dependent on yoga practice. It’s pretty common that we begin to feel improvements in our lives within a short time of starting and maintaining practice. These improvements are rarely limited to flexibility and strength. Rather, the benefits are also felt in areas like improved sleep or digestion, a greater sense of well-being or stronger coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses of life off the mat. Let’s face it, the Ashtanga Yoga method works.

For some, however, the recognition that these improvements are directly linked to Ashtanga Yoga practice causes a total freak out and often immediate quitting. Why would one become uncomfortable or downright rebellious about needing to practice in order to have these improvements persist? My experience was that taking practice made my life better. I also had experiences that showed me what my life would be like if I let my dedication to practice wane. I’ve been lazy and slept in; I’ve skipped practice so Rachelle and I could go have brunch. I’ll share a secret with you. Brunch was tasty and the extra hour lounging in bed was relaxing, but neither gave me what I needed to deal with this crazy world of ours. It was a simple conclusion from my direct experience that not practicing had consequences and practicing had benefits. Over time, the experience of the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga made waking up early and the other “sacrifices” easy (in quotes because they don’t appear that way anymore).

We don’t feel upset or dependent on brushing our teeth in order to have good oral hygiene. We don’t get upset because a lack of water will leave us dehydrated. We understand the connection between our daily practices and the benefits accrued from them. Dependent on yoga practice? Maybe, but no more than on eating, drinking or putting on sunscreen before heading to the beach.

My attitude is that we are all going to be “dependent” on something. Why not develop good habits that produce tremendous benefits rather than bad habits that can be detrimental or dangerous over time?

Guruji said “do your practice and all is coming.” Rejoice when you make the connection that your life is improved as a result. This recognition makes it easier to practice and creates great willpower that will influence other areas of our lives that are important.

Paul Gold is an Ashtanga practitioner and teacher. He co-owns and co-directs Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Toronto with his wife, Rachelle. He made his first trip to Mysore in 2001 to study with Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He and his wife return annually to continue their studies with R Sharath Jois. He is KPJAYI Level 2 Authorized.


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5 Responses to “Dependence On Yoga? ~ Paul Gold”

  1. fivefootwo says:

    Nicely put.

  2. Glitter From The Dross says:

    Thanks, Paul. There is an anxiety (for me) that builds when realizing that this physical practice informs the rest of my life, especially when the practice becomes more intense. I'm glad it's Ashtanga and not drugs that work the magic, but I rely on it nonetheless.

  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you Paul and thank you for being here! I enjoyed assisting with you on this article. 🙂

    I totally agree with you – the benefits will eventually come and it does impact other aspects of your life, but it isn't always easy. I think there are periods where we are going to go through some 'stuff' in order to break patterns (samskaras), the body is going to re-align and detox and this isn't always an 'easy' feeling – mentally or physically. Do you agree?

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  4. Valerie Carruthers says:

    A dedicated Yoga practice can become a lifeline that will take the yogi "across the ocean of the world," as at least one 20th century guru has said. The question is how tenaciously will the yogi be able to hang on for the ride. When Glitter from the Dross aptly says that her anxiety increases in realizing "that this physical practice informs the rest of my life" that's completely understandable. Part of the beauty of physical practice is how it radiates out into many other lifestyle choices. However, asana practice alone cannot do all the heavy lifting. That's where the other limbs support the effort, creating a bigger vessel for the yogi to sail.

  5. Paul Gold says:

    Thanks for your comment, Tanya.

    It is unavoidable that sometimes practice isn’t easy. If that were the case, yoga would be more about creating positive sensations and experiences than making the significant changes that it’s capable of producing.

    To break through old samskaras, to realign and heal the body involves facing and going through ‘stuff’ as you aptly put it. A good teacher who has gone through some ‘stuff’ and come through the other side is one of the most valuable resources to help a student when things are mentally, emotionally or physically challenging.

    How to cope with the obstacles and adversity that can be met during practice is probably the subject of separate post.