I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the celebrated yogi, writer, and all-around awesome Kathryn Budig to chat and get her insights on keeping a yoga practice fresh, aware, and ever-evolving.
Personally, I love stepping outside of traditional Asana to throw new types of movement into my practice, but some people may wonder to what extent this is still yoga.
In response, I have to ask: does it matter? And also, yes I believe it is.
One of the intentions behind a yoga practice is simply to create mindfulness through the union of breath and movement. Therefore, one could argue that some of yoga's benefits aren’t necessarily in the postures themselves, but in how the postures are performed.
Transcending the Automatic
While there are undeniable benefits of practicing the same series of postures each day in styles such as Ashtanga or Bikram, there is certainly something to be said for integrating movements that are way outside of your regular practice.
Doing the same thing everyday can make it easier to run on autopilot, and if you aren’t careful, you can lose the mindfulness behind the practice altogether. When you are asked to put your body in a position outside of its muscle memory, you are essentially asked to reconnect with it in an entirely new way.
The road from mind to body is well established in the patterns of our daily movement, and we don’t necessarily have to be present to shift from one position to the next. It’s like driving the same route to work everyday. Have you ever parked your car and wondered how you got there?
Having to build a new road from mind to body requires a great amount of presence, much in the same way that taking a detour on your way to work would force you to be more aware. What is important to note here, however, is that you still end up at the same place.
Stretching Our Ideas
Along with mindfulness, different types of movements can also evoke different sensations and perhaps different emotions as well. Kathryn Budig had some helpful insight on creating a nourishing yogic environment:
“More than anything, it’s staying true to what comes naturally me. I thrive off of discipline, but don’t find that means a lack of levity. I find that students evolve much faster laughing and are more likely to come back to their practice if it makes them smile.”
Evolution through laughter is certainly a powerful idea. There is no doubt that many of us often feel that we must constantly do things that are hard and perhaps uncomfortable in order to grow.
It can be easy to forget that you can struggle and laugh at the same time. ~Sarah Smith
Exploring Your Own Path
If, ultimately, what we are looking for is growth, there are many ways to climb a mountain. Especially in the times where we feel like we are stagnating in our practice, it can be worthwhile to consider changing things up.
I asked Kathryn if she ever feels as though she has plateaued in her practice.
“All the time! My Asana practice ebbs and flows. If I find myself particularly stale, I’ll venture out to a new studio, teacher, or take a new class online. I’m currently practicing martial arts on a regular basis, and find that:
any time I dedicate myself to a new craft it brings me back to what it felt like to love yoga as a beginner. ~Kathryn Budig
It will always be part of my life, but will continue to take on many forms.”
There is something that rings so true in the idea that yoga takes many forms.
At the end of the day, the Asana tradition is a beautiful framework from which we can construct and deconstruct ourselves in a million different ways. It provides for us not only a foundation, but a home base to which we can return as we continue to move and grow.