A yoga class is different from any other kind of class, in that it aims for no results; there are no goals, no standards of measurement, no grades. We don’t do it to get anywhere other than here, present in the moment.
The physical practice of yoga involves movement and holding poses, which incorporate both strength and flexibility. All of this is done while focusing on the breath. The breath is what guides the movement and holds us in each space, both body and mind. The breath is the bridge to mind/ body connection, and that connection is a practice of awareness - of our bodies, or just our surroundings. That is what we mean by presence.
Presence is not a level we can achieve, but instead is something that must be worked at consistently. The more we practice the more often we will experience presence - awareness - in our lives; thus time we spend doing yoga on the mat is simply a practice.
We often hear claims that yoga can make you stronger or leaner, and in fact yoga can end up being a good work out since anytime we move our bodies and breathe deeply we are exercising. However this is an outcome of cultivating presence, not necessarily the purpose for which we practice. Sometimes the most transformative classes have minimal movement and are restorative in nature.
In a class we are practicing body awareness; when we are in tune with our bodies we tend to treat them better. We also practice focusing our minds on our bodies and our breath, giving our minds a chance to slow down. When our minds are calm, we tend to be less stressed in our bodies. Ultimately we cultivate balance, and when we are balanced we tend to live more intuitively; by doing so, we are making healthier choices.
The balance is not something to be accomplished, it is something to be maintained and practiced every day, and in every moment. This includes the moments when we sit at our desks at work, or deal with our loved ones, or handle traffic on our way to class. When we live our lives in balance, and in tune with our needs, positive results will follow. Yoga is the practice we do to prepare our bodies and our minds for the best outcome and complement our work in life.
When a writer has writer’s block, the way to break the block wouldn’t be to merely write more, or differently, or not at all. Overcoming the block means finding inspiration. Inspiration comes through experience, experience becomes meaningful when we recognize it (which comes through being present), and presence is a practice.
Katelyn and Casey