I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 5 years. And by “on and off,” I mean, the one time you went randomly, felt instantly rejuvenated, and you vowed to go more often. Then it doesn’t happen for another few months because, as you know, life happens and has a tendency to hijack your intentions. Anyways, since Bali (2 months ago), I truly fell in love with it, this form of exercise, this lifestyle, and its community. I’ve been practicing consistently since then. As a writing warm-up for my Chapter 2 literature review (yes, I am actually producing pages. yay me.), I want to reflect on reasons why I practice yoga. First, I purposely chose the word “practice.” According to Merriam-Webster:
: to do something again and again in order to become better at it
: to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life
: to live according to the customs and teachings of (a religion)
The first part is straight-forward. You do yoga, you get better at the asanas (poses). As a generally goal-oriented person who is also impatient and likes to see instant (relatively speaking) results, yoga provides me that venue where I can enjoy the pretty linear process of inputting efforts and ensuing outputs. I get more flexible for the back bending, and stronger for the inversions, with consistent practice over time. To bring that into the larger context of dissertation writing, it becomes especially important. Yoga gives me the little “wins” along the long journey of doctoral pursuit. Secondly, I enjoy the subtle precisions in yoga. Relating back to the first point, it’s the nuance you start to notice through maturation. For example, through practice, I master the precision in carrying out a “simple” downward facing dog: fingers spread wide, shoulders blades tucked in, arms along with ears, legs straight…It feels good to know the difference. Sometimes in life, that’s where the line lies to distinguish an in-group from an out-group. The latter two definitions bring up the bigger picture. Growing up mostly as an atheist, I feel yoga has provided me a sense of guidance and taken up a void that is usually filled with more conventional religions for other people. I practice yoga so I can adopt this way of life, physically and spiritually, and be part of its larger community. I came across this blog called Weekly Sutras, and found a quote that particularly left an impression on me.
The aim of yoga is to cultivate more self-awareness so that we can make the appropriate changes in our lives to reduce suffering and increase inner peace. – Sutra 1.2 & 1.3
Since I started consistently practicing yoga, I noticed I’ve become a lot more aware. First, it was the physiological symptoms. I started to pay attention to my breathing (I used to hold my breath when feeling stressed or anxious, which obviously only makes it worse), my posture (I now walk and sit taller, which provides a positive feedback to my breathing). Then the experience got deeper: I’ve become more introspective, and I learned to take a step back to examine my thoughts and my emotions. Overall, I feel yoga has become a very positively complementary experience to dissertation writing. I sit better at my desk so I dont end up with a sore back and neck after every session. (Actually, I started using a standing desk at home. But I will save that for the next post.) I try to breathe through my writer’s anxiety, and the mental clarity helps me just think about the concepts at hand. Ok, I am sufficiently warmed up now. Off to chapter 2 I go.