When did you know you’d stick with a yoga practice — or do you yet?

One thing about yoga practice — and specifically Ashtanga, and in both senses with a heavy emphasis on asana — that struck me early was the idea of its being a lifelong practice.

I don’t remember hearing that in a gym. (Except maybe for one absolutely terrific trainer I worked with for a while.) You sometimes hear it about running. In the surfing world, there’s a sense of awe about the people still gliding on waves in their 70s. But you hear a lot of people wishing that will be them. (Including me.)

In Ashtanga, it seems, it is a given. Maybe it’s because you have to keep going if “all” is to come.

In the West, we have the first generation of men and women who are taking the Ashtanga practice into their 70s. (Well, maybe not quite yet but they are getting close.) They’re exploring what Tim Miller jokes about as “Ashtanga for seniors.”

This comes, at least in part, from the idea of yoga as a lifelong practice. I think you often will hear, sometimes very explicitly, people talk about the moment when they knew they’d be doing yoga for as long as they lived (this time through).

Was there such a moment for you? Time with a particular teacher? One practice that was the tipping point? Or was it slow buildup, a subtle and quiet realization?

Maybe there hasn’t been one yet. I’m not sure, seven or so years in, that I’ve had that moment. I think I keep expecting the moment to come when I’m done — which in a weird way might amount to the same thing.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

8 thoughts on “When did you know you’d stick with a yoga practice — or do you yet?”

  1. I’m still in the infant stage of my practice (just over three months!), but I’m happy and hopeful! I can’t remember the last time an activity like this was the highlight of my day. I realize I have a ways to go before I feel this potentially revolutionary moment when I know I’ll practice forever, but I can’t help getting excited!

  2. I am 1 1/2 years into practicing Ashtanga, and it wasn’t until I went to Mysore last month that I simply knew – I will be stepping on my mat every day (other than Sunday and moon days) until the day I die. This feeling brings a deep tenderness into my heart, and an overflowing of gratitude for all the beings that came before me that have anchored this inner practice on planet Earth. I feel so blessed.

  3. I was given the message of committing to a lifelong daily practice from Beryl Bender Birch in 2001 (she’s in her 70’s now and still teaching and practicing.) During Sutra studio, she was explaining Sutra 1.14 (Practice becomes firmly grounded when done consistently, with reverence, for a long time.) She said, “This means you can’t just dip your toe every once and a while into this practice and expect anything to happen. You need to jump into the water and completely immerse yourself every day, with reverence, uninterruptedly, for it to work.”

    It made me realize that I was curious and excited about what would happen if I committed myself to this practice in an almost sacred way, making it a consistent, constant part of my life.

  4. I started yoga in 1976, Ashtanga in 1993. The thought that someday I might not do yoga has never occurred to me. Typically I do Ashtanga 4 days a week, and a non-vinyasa routine 3 days (I need both), and I never take a day off. I have a neuro-muscular disorder and significant orthopedic problems, and since I use crutches I do worry that I may have to give up the vinyasa if my shoulders and elbows wear out. I have pain in those areas already. If the time comes I can adapt the vinyasa part if I need to, but as long as I can sit up, I’ll at least do some type of yoga every day. If I don’t do yoga I won’t just feel stiff, I’ll feel ill.

  5. I had that moment at the beginning of this summer, began my practice on Memorial Day (May 25). Not at the infant stage yet, having become strangely impassioned by this at age 72 (and a half), I consider myself pre-embryonic. And it’s going to be a long gestation. Since then I’ve been faithfully and joyfully showing up at the mat four to five times each week, with a regular Wednesday hatha yoga class at my daughter’s studio. Just coming off a slight setback with “chaturanga shoulders.” There’s not a lot out there to guide the senior beginner, so I plan to take notes.

  6. I started practicing Iyengar yoga in the early 80’s and Ashtanga in 1991. I knew immediately that it was for me – The heat, sweat, movement, and the complete relaxation at the end, just clicked. Now at age 67, I still have a daily practice, although it has become much more internal than external. I no longer need advanced postures to get “there”, so pretty much just do primary series. The other limbs have become much more understandable and doable in time, except for the yamas and niyamas. This is a ‘many’ lifetimes practice, as it will take me many lifetimes for “all is coming”.

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