Needing Yoga

I can be that annoying person who *needs* a consistent and regular daily yoga practice to function optimally in my life. That statement irks some people. The fact that I can utter such a claim comes partly from a place of privilege: most people do not have access to yoga, do not have time for yoga nor the resources in their lives to develop a consistent practice. Yoga has become somewhat of a potent social signifier of class, wealth and economic station, and these reminders of division bother us and trigger insecurities about social and economic stratification. As well, yoga in the West has morphed into a social and commercial brand: people and corporations profit from it, and people want to claim ownership of it (think of the myriad types of contemporary yoga styles are out there). So, I get where the hostility – when I say “I need yoga” – comes from. Adding further complexity, that statement also triggers individual insecurities about body anxiety, body shaming and health status.

For me, yoga is a discipline that nourishes and sustains me. But the practice of mindfulness can be applied to almost any activity that gives you joy or makes you feel content.

So, yoga, as an activity can be problematic, which is why in my professional practice, I do NOT emphasize yoga as THE ONLY route to physical and mental health. I do, however, encourage mindfulness supplemented with some body work (sometimes as simple as walking around the block). For me, yoga is a discipline that nourishes and sustains me. But the practice of mindfulness can be applied to almost any activity that gives you joy or makes you feel content. In yoga, mindfulness means being aware of thoughts, realizing the difference between thoughts and the thinker, and practicing the ability to quench the angry flurry of thoughts in your head.

If you can find an activity that you value, an activity that you feel nourishes you – then you, too, *need* to do it.

To be mindful does NOT necessarily require yoga. To be mindful requires presence and consistency. If you can find an activity that you value, an activity that you feel nourishes you – then you, too, *need* to do it. Whatever you choose, the practice has to be regular, mindful and intentional. Consistency weaves the practice into your life so you can internalize it, expect it and crave it. This is how lifestyles are altered and transformed. That’s how we grow and change. Instead of thinking about the future that does not yet exist, focus on each present moment – breathe in and breath out.

Consistency weaves the practice into your life so you can internalize it, expect it and crave it. This is how lifestyles are altered and transformed. That’s how we grow and change.

Lately, I have been feeling a keen need to defend my wellness practices, which are often viewed and dismissed as fun health frivolity. The euphemism “alternative health” is now coming into use in a non-derogatory sense. Most medical students and physicians  undermine the importance of distinguishing physical health versus wellness. Physical health means being free from disease while wellness is about optimal functioning in the realms of physicality, emotionality, intellect, religious and spiritual.

What are your practices that are part of your life? And what do they say about you?

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