Twenty years on the mat

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A quarter of a century sounds like a long time, and I’ve just realised that is how long I have been practising yoga for. The amount I have done on a daily basis has fluctuated over the years since my first classes in a chilly community hall.  Periods of illness and general disruption have affected my willingness and ability to practice every day, and in recent years problems with my neck have forced a change to my practice; no longer Ashtanga but Yin Yoga and a return to where I started with Iyengar.

I also swim every week now, as yoga is no longer enough on its own to keep me slim and physically fit. Yet, the mental and emotional fitness is still more than catered for, and the routine of stepping onto my mat every morning is reassuring and necessary to start my day off on the right, or indeed left, foot.  When I go on holiday I miss my mat, and instead have to make do with a few stretches on my hotel bed in order to wake me up.  I have to admit, I love it once I’ve returned from vacation, having not done what I consider to be a proper practice for a week, and before I get into bed at night, I roll my mat out so it’s all ready for the following day.  There’s something very comforting about the noise it makes as it unfurls onto the carpet.  It’s a sense of comfort which continues the next morning as I stumble, sleepy-eyed onto it and begin my practice.

I’ll admit I don’t tend to go to a class now, and am instead happier practising at home, taking some time for myself. Yet, I do occasionally miss the shared energy which a good yoga class can have.  I’ve tried quite a few different styles of yoga over the years, and maybe I’m just searching for another.  Although that won’t be one of the newer, more Westernised approaches but something that takes me back to the original aim of yoga, which is to still the mind.  Even after all these years, it remains a challenge for me, but then that is what is so great about yoga; it never gets old.  It’s a constant learning curve, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

So, I’m potentially about half-way through my gift of existence now, and I’ve spent half of that doing yoga. I can say with certainty that it has been of benefit to me, in every single way; helping me through challenging and unhappy times in my life.  I’m sure it has also been responsible for the sense that, despite turning forty recently, I don’t feel physically any different to how I did ten years ago, and I’m much more content within myself.  I hope that a decade from now, after another big birthday, my practice will still be enabling me to keep my mind and body happy and healthy.

‘It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.’ Sutra 1.14 of The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, translated by T. K. V. Desikachar, from his book The Heart of Yoga. 

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