I engage in yoga daily. But I do not “do” yoga. Millions of others do “do.” Same-same? Semantics? What’s it matter?
It doesn’t matter. Maybe.
But as a word guy, I use writing to process the world, to help it make sense. To me, words matter. Clarity and precision of communication with myself and others matter.
And as a yoga guy, the self-inquiry of my spiritual practice — the what, why, how — matters.
When others — millions of others — say they do yoga and it catches my ear as something that doesn’t feel true within me as a way to express the experience, I dig deeper.
Like I say, yoga is not something I do. Yoga, for me, does not begin or end with the mat or with a class or clock. Practice on the mat or in a class is not akin to taking my vitamins.
I take my vitamins each morning and they, presumably, do what vitamins do in the body. My doing in that action begins and ends with the consumption of those yummy gummies. I then detach from the process.
Yoga, on the other hand, is not a to-do on the list to be to-done, box checked and forgotten until the next class, the next day, the next hashtag. Yoga is a spiritual practice. That’s something within and lasting.
That practice might include a flow of asanas on a mat and a window of time in a class, but I never detach from the spiritual purpose of my yoga.
The time in the class, on a mat, meditating on a bolster at my home altar, or with mindful intention sauntering with the solitude of a mountain trail, offers especially focused periods of time in my day.
But my yoga practice, perhaps, is most in motion when I’m at the emotional, reactive brink with one of my sons who is in a mood and challenging every decency in my fatherness.
That is when the tapas (fire) is roaring blue and I am facing the realest work in my yoga practice. If I’ve left my yoga in the doing on the mat and at the studio six hours or six days or six minutes ago, it’s not serving me.
In that moment, it’s not serving my impact on my sons or the world that needs a yogi to be yoga-ing right now, right when it counts most.
This moment, this breath, this now, is always what counts most. If I’m not doing yoga off the mat when an event triggers a sensation, an emotion and a reaction in me, how well is my practice serving purpose?
No, I don’t do yoga. I study it. I practice it. I “fail” at it, learn always and in all ways from it. I live it the best I can in each moment.
I am not a thing doing things, as my teacher, Jessica Patterson, says.
I’m not a thing doing yoga. If I am anything, I’m a being being yoga, in all its moment-to-moment complexities among simplicities.
Maybe the verb — do — that people so commonly use for yoga is a mass-market extension of the trend that was doing aerobics.
Maybe it just doesn’t feel right to enough people to trend with saying, “I yoga,” like it does to say, “I run … I ski … I play … I breathe … .”
Or maybe, it is just semantics.
The connection with yoga, of course, is within each practitioner/doer. Its application to life on and off the mat, in and out of the studio, is for each to feel and know. No wrongs, no explanations. It is what it is for you. And me.
So, does the verb of how you engage with yoga matter? If you think it does.
Answering why it matters to you becomes a practice of inquiry and, potentially, deeper connection to your yoga. That in itself is doing yoga.
Note: This post, “Self-Inquiry on ‘Doing’ Yoga,” originally was published by me at Humanitou on November 11, 2018.