The Importance of a Daily Yoga Practice

peaceful warrior yoga pose
Photo by KaelenWalsh

My youngest daughter is fond of saying: “If you want to be a runner, you have to run; and if you want to be a weightlifter, you have to lift weights.” A runner, she knows that the only way she is going to improve on her race time is to run. Her no-nonsense attitude toward running serves for me as a reminder of the spirit of yoga.

The Sutras (1.14) teach us that to become firmly established in our practice, we must attend to it for a long time, without interruption, with an attitude of devotion and service, and a full heart.

Students often come to yoga filled with enthusiasm. They invest in yoga mats and yoga attire; they sign up for classes and declare they now “do yoga.” As they immerse themselves in their practice, they begin to come face to face with their ego, their fears, frustrations and anger that they can’t touch their nose to knees. Bodies long conditioned to a state of numbness respond with pain as underused muscles are summoned to the work they have long leveled on joints. Egos suffer as yogis look around the room comparing themselves to advanced students.
Many stop coming to class and eventually quit. But it’s at that juncture where we meet our obstacles and excuses that the true challenge of our practice begins.

We will not transform our practice – nor, in turn, our practice transform our lives – if we do not practice regularly. The more we practice, the deeper we delve to our potential, our true selves. A daily yoga practice empowers us with the spiritual confidence gained from progressing through the asanas and breaking through mental, physical and emotional obstacles. A daily practice cultivates the attitude that through patience and compassion, not brute strength, we can accomplish just about anything on and off our mats.

In his book Yoga Beyond Belief, Ganga White responds to students who ask the age-old question: How long will it take? How long will it take before I master yoga.

White’s response: It will take the rest of your life.

Yoga is not a destination. It’s a journey. Mastery of the asanas is not the goal of the practice, it is the result of it. Pattabhi Jois said, “Yoga is one percent theory; the rest is practice.”

The sage Patanjali did not prescribe a period of time required to achieve mastery. He taught that through abhyasa, constant and determined effort, and vairagya, non-attachment and freedom from desire, we can establish a firm foundation in our practice.That is counter to the way many of us live our lives: we want instant gratification. A lifetime of practice? That’s way too long for many of us.

But we must practice vairagya and let go of our attachment to the goal. We must approach our practice with zeal—the tapas the Sutras teach us to sustain a practice over a lifetime. Along that journey, we see yoga reflecting back on our lives. We learn that what we do on the mat is what we do off the mat. Our attitude as we approach a challenging pose is a reflection of how we live our lives.

Do you have a daily yoga practice? What challenges have you faced or overcome through this practice?

Comments 10

  1. I totally agree…I’m an addict and if I don’t do yoga in the morning I don’t have a good day

  2. I had a daily practice and felt wonderful; strong, balanced, both emotionally and physically. Then I lost my yogi, suffered an injury and now it’s been a year since I’ve practiced. Boy, do I miss it– but find it hard to face having to “start over”… it’s very childish, really. I want to think of it positively– hey, there are few times in life when we get a chance to start over! If I think this way, it’s exciting – I’ll get to feel those incremental advances in body and mind as if for the first time – it’ll be great! writing this tonight is my first step back, and I want to thank you for giving me encouragement and words to live by.

    1. Hi Anita, I’m glad we have encouraged you to keep practicing yoga! Stay strong with your yoga practice :-)

  3. I practise yoga daily I have found very good result .I am a student .After yoga practice I can study properly

  4. I am also agree with you . Yoga is become my daily need, i do yoga to start my day. Nice article about yoga.

  5. I’ve just started about a week ago and found that if I don’t do my yoga every day I start to stiffen back up. I’ve still got aches and pains but they are much reduced than before.

  6. Yoga helps you to become stronger. This is through the exercises that you are able to engage in. With more practices, the muscles are able to get strengthened and also flexible.

  7. I practice yoga twice a week for 1 hr each time but I want to get into a daily yoga practice. How much time should I devote daily?

    1. As much as you can! I’d recommend you start with a short daily practice (10-20 minutes) to make it easy to establish the habit and then slowly work on expanding the time.

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