The beginning of yoga

Contrary to what we may see in pictures, or hear from friends, a yoga practice doesn’t need a mat, special pants or even a lick of movement.

When new friends hear that I teach yoga, it’s pretty common that they’ll tell me a story about why they could never.

“Oh no, not me. I’m not flexible at all.”

“My balance is terrible.”

“I don’t really like to stretch.”

And then we laugh. And sometimes I’ll ask them, “But you’re curious, right?”

Usually, the answer is yes. That’s when I make my move! I ask them to do the following.

Do it with me now.

“See what it’s like to take a deep breath in. See what it’s like to let that breath out nice and slow. Now do it again. And one more time.”

Congratulations. You just jumped into the deep end of yoga.

And it all started with a breath.

Please notice how the breath is also the beginning of every moment. The beginning of every adventure. And every life.

Everything starts with the breath.

Contrary to what we may see in pictures, or hear from friends, a yoga practice doesn’t need a mat, special pants or even a lick of movement. For some, a yoga practice may begin with simple contemplation on ideas from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. A student may be interested in learning more about non-violence, discipline, or detachment.

For some of us, it may be inspired by a beautiful experience of connection in nature. Or a realization that certain patterns are no longer beneficial to the life we want to lead.

And, of course, exploring movement may be a valuable and essential part of your yoga practice. But, as my teacher’s teacher, TKV Desikachar, writes in The Heart of Yoga, someone who limits her yoga studies to physical exercise is like “a man who strengthens only one arm and lets the other become weak.”

We have many dimensions in this life and yoga is a means of integrating them.

For all of us, it starts with a breath. Anyone who can consciously breathe is primed and ready for yoga.

Notice that this doesn’t mean you already know how to consciously breathe. You just have to be willing to pay attention to your breath.

That’s the beginning of yoga.

Where the journey takes you from there will depend entirely on you. Some may find yoga in the wisdom traditions of scripture. Some will feel yoga in breathing practices that awaken their energy. All of us come alive in different ways.

There’s no single path to yoga, there’s only your lifeward adventure.

As the adventure develops in yoga, we encounter the beautiful ways our different dimensions work together. We are a collaboration of body, mind, personality, and spirit. We breathe. As we work with all of these dimensions, we learn to collaborate with our ambitions, with others, with nature, and with every circumstance of life.

The beginning of yoga is the breath. The journey depends on you.

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