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What does yoga practice look like?

By Reika Yoga

THU FEB 03, 2022

As a full-time yoga teacher, I often put too much pressure on myself to practice yoga EVERY DAY. Sometimes it can be both a physical and psychological struggle to live up to the yoga-teacher expectation that I put on myself. At the beginning of my teaching career, I pushed myself to practice my Yoga Asanas every day, no matter how tired I really felt. The Yoga Asana is the overt, physical aspect of my yoga practice. Yoga poses, such as the warrior 2, triangle poses, and sun salutations are what people normally think of when you say "yoga practice". It is a little-known fact that Asanas, the physical aspects of yoga, are but one of the eight limbs of yoga.

I am not going to detail each limb in this blog post, but according to The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, one of the most well-known philosophical texts on yoga, the eight limbs of yoga are as follows:

  1. Yama: The Rules of a Moral Code, or how to interact with the outer world.
  2. Niyama: Rules for personal behavior
  3. Asana: The physical practice of yoga (poses/postures)
  4. Pranayama: Yogic breathing technique
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: Focused Concentration
  7. Dhyana: Meditative Absorption
  8. Samadhi: Bliss-state, the oneness you feel with the universe/divine/higher-self/god/Krishna (or insert a word here that you resonate with)

So if I say “I practice yoga every day”. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that I am limited to doing postures every day. I try to incorporate yoga throughout my daily life. Somedays I might be too tired to do a long physical practice, so I might just sit and meditate, concentrating my mind. Or somedays I might go for a walk on the beach and pay close attention to my breathing. Somedays my yoga practice might look like the interactions I have with people in my life. Or somedays my yoga practice consists of attending a yoga philosophy class with my teacher. Somedays my yoga practice is simply observing my thoughts and mental patterns. They are ALL part of my yoga practice.

In the United States, when we say “yoga practice”, the first thing that comes to mind is doing yoga poses on a mat, but there is much more to it than that. I remember one time when I was injured, and couldn’t practice my Asanas. At that time I felt frustrated that I couldn't practice anymore. But soon I realized that I could still practice yoga, it just didn’t look the same as it did before I was injured. I could still sit and meditate (Dharana/Dhyana), I could still practice my breathing techniques (pranayama), I could still practice being kind to myself and others (Yama & Niyama) and so much more.

The key concept to remember is consistency. Rather than having a long practice session once a week, try to incorporate yoga into your daily life. You can still practice every day even if it’s for a very short time.

Here are 5 ideas on how to integrate yoga into daily life:

  1. Before a meal, be grateful for the food you are about to eat.
  2. Go for a walk and pay attention to all the beauty that surrounds you.
  3. Ignore your smartphone when you are spending time with someone. Turn it off or put it away. Instead, be present with whoever you are spending time with.
  4. When you feel overwhelmed by strong emotions pause and notice your breath; feel the ground beneath you, and listen to your heartbeat.
  5. Take mini-breaks during work to regulate your breathing, and take steady breaths-- inhale and exhale completely (try this right now as you are reading).

I try to incorporate these different aspects of yoga practice in my Virtual Yoga Studio. In my studio, I teach not only the physical practice of yoga, but I also combine pranayama, meditation, philosophical discussions, connecting with one another, and giving back to the community (by our Yoga4Change project where we make a monthly donation to non-profit organizations).

I realize that it is not easy to see yoga as a daily lifestyle practice. That is why I decided to create the Seven Days of Yoga Challenge! This is a free challenge that helps you to merge yoga with your daily life for seven straight days. This challenge not only includes a variety of physical yoga practices, but it also includes pranayama, mediation, philosophy, and more. I invite you to try and begin consistent daily yoga practice with me :)