◀ All Blog Posts

Why I Practice Yoga

By Jessica Karpinske

FRI AUG 30, 2019

Recent assignment...

Why do you practice yoga? 

Write your manifesto...

See, yoga is a way of life...for me.

Yoga is more than movement to me.  It's more than an hour of exercise.  If anything, it's mostly not that.

It's like an exercise in embodiment.

A pathway into my body...

Back to the self-love business again...it's the foundation, the roots of life.  I believe that self-love is the root of a healthy, happy life that is full of abundance.  It has been too easy to disassociate with parts of my life and my body through any variety of means (alcohol, sex, drugs, food, social media...and the list goes on and on).  These vehicles of disassociation can become so strong in order to avoid less desirable feelings and before we know it, we're sleepwalking through life. In the past I've had an unhealthy yearning to use various means to disassociate from my true self.  This is very common, of course, and it is actually quite socially acceptable.  I decided I wanted something different and yoga has been the pathway to something different for me.

I learned that on the spectrum of feelings, I should stay somewhere in the center.  The center is a nice place to exist most of the time, but when shit happens, anger and sadness visit too.  It's not good or bad, it just is.  As humans, we have a wide spectrum of feeling that cannot be helped.  I have not always felt like I have permission to feel the feelings I'm feeling.  I still struggle with this at times.  How many times do you ask someone, "How's your day?" and they say "good" or "fine" in response when really it is so not good or fine.  We become programmed to say the feeling that is status quo and that way it doesn't have to inconvenience anyone if we're really sad, angry or something else.

Some ways self-hatred, shame and fear show up are through less than perfect realizations about our bodies, abilities, how we should feel, be, relationships, etc. When I have felt deep shame about who I am compared to who I think I should be, in the past I've use escaping is to cope because I didn't have a better way of doing things.

Shame is like a dragon and when shame is kept inside, the beast continues to grow stronger and we keep moving further away from ourselves. 

Our thoughts, feeling and behaviors that are used to distance ourselves also become more taboo and we quit knowing our true selves. 

Maybe we actually quit wanting to know our true selves.

It is through yoga, I have found that I am able to reconnect to myself through my breath and movement.  Connecting to parts of me that I have disassociated with throughout the years.  Breathing in new life and letting go of old shit.  Old stories that have served as blocks to me becoming my best self.  Finding that connection through soothing touch, through connecting to my voice with chanting, connecting to my soul through personal mantras and to my body through asana (movement/yoga poses).  By actually connecting to myself, I am able to notice my strengths and abilities and also my weaknesses, imperfections and habits more clearly.  I have a curiosity to meet my edge.  To bend, twist, fold and pump my body in ways that I haven't allowed before.  I meet my edge and know I can return back to the comfort of my home when I am ready.

In a way, this mimics the developmental learning stage that we all go through when we are around 11-13 years old.  This is when we find a curiosity to venture out, but we look back to home for the approval to go ahead.  We need the approval to go out with the understanding that we will have a home to come back to.  Yoga holds this same developmental learning for me as I practice and figure it out, I am learning that I have a home within me that is unconditionally loving and I can meet my edge then come back home.  Home being in my body.  Safe without harsh judgement or fear of failure.  Unconditional love.

So, I connect to my body through breath, touch, chanting and mantras and asana.  All are really important to me.  All are different and I feel like lots of methods are needed to fully know myself.  I mean, we don't eat the same thing or wear the same shirt every day.  Diversity is key in life.

~ Breath

The breath is our life force.  It brings new oxygen into each cell in our bodies and nourishes those cells helping to create rich blood that flows to every area of our body.  Our blood is our life.  Bringing in enough oxygen into our body is crucial.  Also important is exhaling fully because our lungs filter out a lot of junk from our body.  Maybe you haven't thought about this much, but if you forget to breathe, which many people do, you know that you feel better when you are not holding your breath.  If you have a medical condition which limits your ability to breathe well, you know that it is a scary and awful feeling to not have your breath.  

Also, the breath allows us to change the way we feel when we're breathing with intention.  We can speed up the breath and slow it back down and it manipulates how we feel.  Many of us operate almost all the time in fight or flight mode just from leading busy, stressful lives.

Yes, your body likely thinks it's out running from lions when you're: not sleeping well, not eating well, running from place to place, working 12 hour days, exercising too much, running the kids to all those activities non-stop, etc.

When we slow the breath down to around 6 breaths per minute (that's an inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 5...not too long), we take our bodies from fight/flight into rest and relax.  We are able to do this for ourselves!  It's free and works quickly.

So, when I'm anxious and running about doing all the things, I can breath and change my circumstances.

~ Touch

We aren't usually touched enough (in good ways).  Many people don't get hugs or any form of touch on most days.  Especially those of us who live alone.  In addition to not being touched by others, many people don't touch themselves either.  Hell, many people don't even own a full length mirror to look at themselves let alone touch themselves outside of taking a shower.

I figure, it's my body and I should be able fulfill me need for touch.  We let other people touch our bodies.  We actually let people do all sorts of things to our bodies, but touching ourselves sexually or non-sexually has been made taboo.  I disgress...

Ok, so back to self-touch in relation to practicing yoga.  I like to find the fits in my body and make those connections.  Our body fits itself because our bodies were created perfectly for each of us.  For example, our hands fit into the arches of the feet, armpits fit into knees, one hand can hold the other hand, hands fit like mitts around knees and fit into armpits like balls, etc.  There are all these fits that we were born with, because our bodies are awesome!  There are all so many connections to be discovered through yoga and just by spending time in our bodies.

~ Chanting and Mantras

In my post on yin yoga (12-5-2018), I wrote about the mantras I used to regularly practice while in child's pose.  I feel like, since I spent so many years being out of my body and being my own worst critic, that it takes some serious rewiring for my internal dialogue to come into friendship with itself.  For me, the time that I spent repeating a lot of mantras was a time of intensive internal friendship building.

My whole practice would be like 3-5 minutes in extended child's pose repeating:

I love you, I trust you, I respect you, I honor your past and where you are today...something like that.  One deep breath for each.  One pose.  These mantras on repeat.

I have also spent some time chanting om.  It's the universal sound which includes A-U-M.  I find it helpful to hear my voice, out loud, and see how I can change and play with it through a series of oms.  Some days it is creaky and crackly, some times it is strong, sometimes the oms are short and others are long.  I play with how it feels when I push through my diaphragm, etc.  It's another way to come into my body and build confidence in my voice.

~ Asana

Asana or the movement part of yoga, allows me to find space in my body that I wasn't aware of before.  Constantly amazed at how moving one thing, changes another, creates space in another. Again, it's looking at a pose and saying, "this is where I want to go, now how do I get there." Stacking body parts and creating different results.  Also being able to tune into how a movement feels in my body and what muscles I'm using.  Or how my nervous system reacts, if I'm resisting relaxing into a pose, what that's about and using my breath to cue my body that it is not in danger and to relax.

It's an interconnected process and through yoga I have come to find that I am the alchemist of my life.  The mediator, the meditator, the adventurer, the lover. 

Like a golden thread in a complex tapestry.  The practice is of yoga is one of coming home, of holding space when it gets uncomfortable, in negotiating what I need and what I want in my life. 

A practice of letting go of attachment when it no longer serves me, in allowing for the creation of new stories, respecting my past, allowing grace in with an open heart and using my voice to express my truth and to cut my path of potential.

It's a way to look at all the pieces of me, to get around my ego and also to find that no place inside me is taboo.  It is all me.  Messy.  Beautiful.  Strong.  Sensitive.  My home is where I practice.  Where I am never too much and I am never not enough.

I am continuously practicing and learning how to live unapologetically and confidently in my skin.  It is a practice and the most important part is to show up for myself.

To me, yoga is a journey and a way of life.   It is a friend and a teacher.  It mimics the greater common patterns in life.  But my practice, in my body is like the scale-model cosmic system that I get to personally embrace and study the details of each day.  I choose this practice over and over again.  I embody the practice so I can more fully embody me.

***photo for this post taken my Sydney Johnson with Fuel Your Focus Photography