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Are You Practicing with Purpose?

May 08, 2024

Is something missing from your practice?

The other week I chose a class in one of the most popular yoga channels on Youtube and let it rip. It was a standard vinyasa. The sequences flowed together, the instructions were clear. It was good for a standard vinyasa. But something was nagging me. I switched to a different Youtube channel and tried another class. Again, it was… good, but I felt like something was missing. Throughout both classes I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘What is this good for?’ 

I don’t mean to put down other yoga teachers. But, this is an important point that anyone practicing yoga (or pursuing any other kind of physical discipline) should be aware of. There is a difference between practicing with intent and just showing up to check ‘yoga’ off the list of things to do. What was driven home to me this week is that you can’t necessarily rely on the structure or instruction presented by your teachers of coaches (no matter how many followers they have on Instagram) So, I want to offer some questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re getting the most out of your practice.

 

Are you practicing with purpose?

 

Can you define the reason you’re practicing?

If you have a SMART goal, that's great. But even if you don’t, you probably have some general ideas about what you want. Learn new poses, lose weight, improve mobility, etc.

 

Does your teacher, coach, routine specifically mention or address that reason?

Mentioning that the practice they are instructing is designed to build strength (or flexibility or relaxation etc) doesn’t necessarily mean it will. But it’s an important step in the right direction.

 

Does your practice challenge you?

If there is no struggle, there is no growth. If you do the same practice day in day out, or if you always take the modification to keep the practice easy you’ll maintain where you are.

 

Have you noticed changes in the last 4 weeks?

Change is slow, but four weeks of regular practice should be enough time to notice changes. If your practice hasn’t changed you in the last four weeks, something isn’t right.

 

Does yoga need to be progressive?

‘Yoga’s not a sport. It’s not about being fitter.’  That’s true. But it’s hard to deny that yoga IS about transformation. Even if you are practicing yoga to maintain your physical health, not improve it, fundamental to the tradition of yoga is the idea that you can become more than you are, that there are deeper, more profound insights to be had. There is no yoga practice where the goal is to maintain your status quo.

I’m on-board with spiritual insight. But if you’re like me and your yoga practice is also the time you have during the day to exercise, then you expect results for your time and effort. There is nothing wrong with practicing yoga for its own sake or moving just to move. But, if I am taking a class titled ‘Yoga for strength’ it’s reasonable to expect that the class will follow the principle of exercise science that pertains to developing strength. The next time you show up on your mat and are instructed to ‘set your intention’, follow up by asking yourself whether the class you’re taking is actually in line with that intention.

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