I'm heading to Mexico tomorrow for a week long yoga retreat. It's the first adventure of this sort for me, I'm rather excited, and I find myself reflecting on "why yoga".
I went to my first yoga class in 2012 and found myself in classes most weeks of 2013. 2014 was the first full year of regular yoga practice for me, during which quite a bit of my time and attention was spent doing and thinking about yoga. I like to tell people "I do yoga to understand why I do yoga", which I find to be a completely honest explanation of what's going on.
Why do I do yoga?
I started going to classes in search of exercise I could enjoy. Yoga makes my body feel great. A deep hamstring stretch, an exhilarating backbend, a focused twist, these are all such empowering actions. I'm getting stronger and more flexible for it, but yoga has become more than just exercise for me.
Recently I made a decision to understand more of the yoga tradition. Yoga's roots can't be traced precisely because they go back so far. With thousands of years of human history behind me, I feel the need to understand and respect how yoga came to be a major part of my life.
With apologies to my reasonably uninformed and generic explanation, yoga is a Hindu philosophy that describes transcendence from human experience. Many versions of yoga exist, with the most familiar having a physical component, "asana", the exercise bit. The exercises, while modern, are rooted in ancient philosophical concepts, and constitute a small part of "yoga".
At age 33, I've never been a member of a traditional religion. When it comes down to it, I consider snowboarding my religion because it is something I've done with regular fervor for over 20 years. My lifestyle prevents me from snowboarding all year long, but the peak feeling lives in me during every moment. With yoga always being available, my yoga practice is approaching something that looks and feels (to me) like a religion.
In peak yoga experience, my breath, body, and mind align into a better personal understanding of life in a way that defies description. This feeling is a kind of beauty I don't understand, bewildering and natural, encompassing more than my body and experience.
That's why I do yoga - to try and understand those few and far between moments of rapture that are unique to this beautiful human tradition. I am being entirely honest when I tell you that I do yoga to understand why I do yoga - I don't think I'll figure it out any time soon, and that's the beauty.