With apologies to Ashtanga Yoga Guru Pattabhi Jois, who had a favorite saying that “Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory,” I would amend that slightly to say that practice is 99% doing and 1% theory. Like Nike’s “Just do it” tagline. Just choose a practice and do it. Stop spending more time gathering information, or reading another book about practice. Just pick a practice and do it. And give it enough time to see where it takes you.
Practice, of course, takes many forms. For some, it’s a group yoga asana class once or twice a week. For others, it’s meditation. For others still, it’s writing a daily haiku. For some, walking or running at sunrise becomes a dedicated practice. For others, sipping tea mindfully in a peaceful place is practice. Even taking time to be truly present in conversation with someone, particularly someone who might otherwise be “difficult” can become a practice. Practice, really, is anything that connects you to the present moment, that removes the veil that obscures the soft, still voice of your true self, and allows the mind and spirit to come to rest.
Now, information is great and nearly every day, there’s new research out about the many benefits of different practices on the body, the mind, the emotions. Each latest article may or may not support your practice choice but that should not stop you from making a choice and making a commitment to stay with it for a time, to explore how it works for you. You know what you need to support your life right now, whether it’s rest, or energy, or focus or patience, boosting your metabolism, developing strength or opening the heart to compassion. The first sutra (or verse) of yoga from the ancient yogi sage Patanjali (the first to write down the observations of generations of practicing yogis) is “Now, the inquiry of yoga begins.” The first step of a practice is the willingness to pursue the practice and the inquiry to the effect it has on your life. Give a practice enough time to collect that data. And know that even the commitment to practice will empower you.
And so choose a practice, begin it and enjoy the inquiry. As Pattabhi Jois also said, “Practice and all is coming.” And please, feel free to share your stories and insights from your practice!
Deb Cook, Certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Yoga Nidra Facilitator
Owner, PRACTICE and Yoga in Maine