Do you enjoy the experience of traveling or would you rather just arrive at your destination without having seen the sights along the way? You might ask the same question about yoga practice. Do you go to a weekly class with a specific goal in mind or are you there for the sensations of each pose and yoga sequence?
It is fine to have a goal in yoga. Almost everyone starts yoga for a specific reason such as losing weight, gaining flexibility or relieving back pain. Being too goal oriented, however, can cause you to miss out on everything else yoga has to offer along the way. You may find that your goal changes or becomes less important over the course of your yoga journey.
Traveling the Same Route Over and Over
Many of us travel the same road on a regular basis, whether it is our daily commute or a road trip to visit family or friends. The trip will be boring if we think we are going to see the same thing every time, but, when viewed with fresh eyes and an open mind, it can be a chance to discover new details or view a familiar sight in new light.
Every yoga pose and sequence offers a similar opportunity. We can blindly repeat trikonasana, triangle pose, for the thousandth time or we can treat each asana as a new experience and chance to find new information about our body and self. Practicing with presence and awareness allows each yoga experience to be fresh and interesting.
Are We There Yet?
We are all familiar with this question! If you are asking it about your yoga practice, the answer is “probably not.” Yoga is a lifelong adventure. It is more about the journey than the destination. If you don’t pay attention to everything that happens along the way, the destination will never be reached. Even for those that are attentive and diligent in yoga practice, it may be that the final stage of yoga - enlightenment or self-realization - is never fully achieved. There are eight limbs of yoga; five or six is all that most of us have the capacity to truly uncover or fully explore.
There will come a day you realize you have reached your original yoga goal. The pounds have been shed, you can touch your toes or daily back pain has gone away. Yet, that goal may no longer seem so important. You are now doing yoga for the other changes it has brought about. You enjoy the sensation of the sequence of poses and the associated presence of mind, the unity of mind and body. You have found the path of yoga has enough to offer whether or not you reach the end.