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 Yoga: What are Yoga Asanas and Why Practice Them? 

In yoga practice you can do this by dividing your experience into incremental breaths and taking care of only that which arises in one breath cycle and no more. In this way almost any difficulty becomes manageable. Rather than focusing on how much further you wish you could go, or comparing your meager efforts with those of someone who is more adept, you can choose to focus on what you are accomplishing in each breath. Maybe today you open your hip five millimeters farther, or you manage to sit comfortably in meditation for the first time. As you investigate the tightness around your hip you discover ways to release it; as you sit for five more minutes you discover that those "urgent" matters were really not so urgent. It is only through these tiny, slow, and progressive openings that deep, profound change occurs. It is your choice to take pleasure in these small awakenings or to disregard your efforts as insignificant in the face of how much further you have to go. You can choose to have a sense of humor about your dilemma or fester in negativity. Whom would you like to garden with?

When we make practice a joyful time, it is also much more likely that we are growing more deeply within our spiritual life. When we get hooked into striving toward where we think we should be and how far we ought to be able to go, in truth we are somewhere else all the time. We are in our fantasy, our ideas, our concepts, and our judgments. There's not much room in there to perceive and appreciate what's actually happening. Even when we feel pain, even when we face great difficulty, we can take refuge in our practice. There will inevitably be times when progress is slow, when injury or illness or life circumstances limit our ability to do the outward forms. But this doesn't limit our ability to plumb the depths of our inner life.

Each day as you step onto your mat, make a decision to enjoy just where you are right now. Take a few moments, too, to contemplate how fortunate you are to be practicing this wonderful art. A casual glance at the morning paper is proof enough of the vast suffering, poverty, violence, and homelessness that is the lot of so many human beings. If you are standing on a yoga mat and have the time to practice even fifteen minutes, you are a fortunate person. If you have a yoga teacher, you have an invaluable gift and life tool available to very few people. In the spirit of this gratefulness, let your practice begin.

Copyright © 2000 Donna Farhi

(Excerpted from Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness ISBN: 0805059709)
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 About The Author
Donna Farhi Donna Farhi is a Yoga teacher who has been practicing for 30 years and teaching since 1982. She leads intensives and teacher training programs internationally. Donna is best known for her unique ability to help......more
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