What it Really Means to Practice Yoga

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I recently had the privilege of vacationing in Central America. It was blissful and rejuvenating—no schedule, no alarms, no traffic, no anxiety, and no responsibilities.

When I returned home to Vancouver, I expected a couple of things: Firstly, I expected to be perfectly bronzed and salt-water exfoliated, glowing with a Caribbean halo that oozed rest and youth. Secondly, I expected to bring the flow of peace and calm back home with me, and have it translate to my workplace and relationships.

Alas, my dry, flaking skin and post-travel day dark circles weren’t the only things that didn’t meet my expectations. I felt as though I had no tolerance for anyone or anything. I felt irritated by clients, work, traffic, text messages from friends and family. Occurrences that had previously been met with patience and mindfulness—case notes, lineups, emails—were now met with resentment and annoyance, followed by frustration and dismay that I had so quickly lost my “Zen” state that had seemed to come so easily in Nicaragua.

And then I was reminded, this is why it’s called practice.

Just as we lose our physical flexibility and strength when we have not been stretching our muscles regularly, we lose our emotional and cognitive flexibility and strength when we have not been “tested” or stepped out of those comfort zones.

If we aren’t mindfully practicing refraining, patience, non-reactivity, and compassion, as we do in yoga, we risk being “out of practice” and lacking such skills when tested. If yoga is the primary place we choose to do this, a hiatus from practice might not just affect your physical flexibility and strength –we also might lose our focus, or our calm, or our compassion. Fortunately, once learned, we are able to access these skills more quickly than we would have before learning them (think muscle-memory), as we’ve created the neural pathways; we just need to strengthen them (“neurons that fire together wire together”).

This doesn’t mean you can’t holiday, or that you must keep up a militantly regular practice all the time. The flow of life will make it so you are sometimes faced with excellent opportunities to practice and sometimes not. But, you can do this whenever you experience a difficult feeling in your daily life. Whenever I’m feeling bored, or angry, or frustrated, or impatient, or sad, or rejected, I remind myself it’s excellent practice in tolerating (insert difficult feeling here), and it contributes to me reacting to that feeling in more helpful ways. Still, know that it’s a continual process that does not end. We don’t become experts or acquire these skills without having to train them mindfully. However, just as you likely believe the time, effort, and physical discomfort you experience in the asana is worth the physical benefit, you will likely find the same goes for your cognitive and emotional practice. And, your colleagues, clients, family, and friends will probably agree. I know mine do.



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Rodney Yee & Colleen Saidman Yee's Favorite Quotes

In honor of our new Yoga Foundations Guide with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee, Gaiam TV sat down with them to get their favorite inspirational quotes as we begin the building blocks to a solid yoga for life practice. This guide is excellent for yoga for beginners or anyone looking to revisit the defining elements of a strong asana practice.

This guide includes sun salutations for beginners and beginning yoga routines perfect for anyone new to yoga.

Get a sneak peek of day 3 sun salutations!

Rodney Yee’s Favorite Quotes

Cling to the one thing that matters, hold onto “I am” and let go of all else. ::Nisargatta Maharaj

…and it is this immediate perception, this choiceness awareness that puts an end to sorrow. ::J. Krishnamurti

Feel the motions of tenderness around you, the buoyancy. ::Rumi

Colleen Saidman Yee’s Favorite Quotes

How long, babe, will you search for what’s not lost? ::Bob Dylan

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. ::Mark Twain

The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace. ::Mother Teresa

Yoga Foundations with Rodney Yee & Colleen Saidman Yee

Yoga guides — they’re not just for beginners anymore. That’s why Gaiam TV partnered with yoga pioneers Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee. Over the last 15 years, they’ve cultivated the best approach to foundational yoga.

Watch the video below, and sign up for the guide.

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