Make Your Practice Count

How many yoga moves does it take to get to the Center? The world may never know...but the yogi doesn't keep count.

When you break realities down to a smaller, more comprehensible level...what seems unfathomable is realized to be true. The average heart beat ranges between 60-80 times a minute. In a day, that translates to 86,400 beats on the low side. In a year, that means the heart beats well over 3 million times. Mind boggling.

Apply this calculation concept to your yoga practice. If you practice twice a week and average 50 moves a practice (3 sun salutations have 36 moves), you will do 5200 yoga moves a year. (I consider this a conservative estimate because every move with the breath counts.) Practice 5 years and you've got 26,000 moves under your belt! When you start calculating what you've done on the mat without keeping count, the subtle changes become more apparent. You start to discover muscles you did not know existed. You re-learn what it feels like to breathe. You learn how to do your best and not be mentally deflated comparing yourself to another's best.

Many can't touch their toes in the beginning. Next thing you know, you transition from struggling to touch toes to calmly stepping onto your palms. The day you feel that Down Dog is a resting pose is a good one. What used to be a struggle of strength and weight finds the lighter side of stability. Take the time to feel what is working in each pose. Each slight adjustment you make adds another move under your belt. Just when you think you have achieved the "perfect" state of a pose, your body will surprise you with new information to integrate. You learn to expect and enjoy change.

You might not study anatomy to determine what is exactly taking place, but you learn to really feel what is going on so you can play your edges. Imagine if you did not practice yoga....all the muscles in the body that would rarely get used to their potential. Take the latissiumus dorsi for example. This superficial muscle covers 2/3's of the back and the top of it is attached to the inside of the humerus bone (the top bone of the arm). When you actively reach up those arms in Warrior I, you are lengthening the latissimus dorsi because the arms lift it up. In the front of the body, you're expanding the intercostal muscles that are between each rib. The shoulder muscles get contracted and stronger. The quadriceps are actively holding the foundation as the feet stay planted. There are layers of muscles over the few I have mentioned; therefore, know there is more happening that meets the eye.

In yoga, you can experience making the muscles strong by active engagement of them. Or, you can train yourself to release tightness and let the muscles extend with breathing and gravity. You can even practice awareness by simultaneously engaging one part and letting another part remain passive. If your mind is spending more time on calculating how much you're doing, pause and breathe where you are. Each move plays a part in your life practice of yoga.

When we spend our time calculating how long something takes, we lose sight of its purpose. No one knows how many breaths or heartbeats they are destined to have. Just like we don't keep count of something as critical as that, it certainly does not matter how many yoga moves it will take to "achieve" a pose. The truth is, the pose itself does not matter. It is the practice of pursuing, experiencing and expanding in the pose that counts.

Don't worry about keeping count of how many times you move...just make every move you make count. Consider this a new practice of math that starts on the mat. You might find after some uncounted number of moves, you discover yourself living this mindset off the mat.

When that happens, you realize all that was necessary was and is the time you use to embrace who you are. The only thing you can count on is change are words that somehow put order in the chaos of the unknown. Let the dichotomy of that truth flow through you with every breath...every move. The rest will find its way to fall into place when you stop counting.

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