Yoga As a Lifetime Practice

When the mind and the heart are stretched together in expanding self awareness, I assure you, there is instantaneous self transcendence and, therefore, limitless freedom - SHRI SWAMI NIRMALANANDA Jivamukti
I love the practice of Yoga! I have been consistently practicing for 12 years.  I love everything about yoga – the breathing, the stretching, the chanting, the lessons of life that are shared by the instructor.  Yoga is a way of being not just a form of exercise.  The definition from wordnetweb.princeton.edu is A Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility that is achieved through the three paths of actions (exercise) and knowledge and devotion.  I came to yoga originally from practicing it with my mom as a child.  I don’t remember much of it then because I was so young.  In fact the only pose I remember is the Lion. It is designed to help clear your sinuses, so whenever we were sick my mom would tell us to get on the floor and launch up like a lion and roar to clear our sinuses.  At the time I thought she made up the pose just being silly when we didn’t feel well.
Now I know it was yoga she was teaching us to help us heal ourselves.  The next time I came to yoga was during naturopathic medical school. I started taking yoga because it was the “naturopathic thing to do”.  I didn’t enjoy my experience at all.  The class I went to was boring and hard.  I didn’t ever think I would like yoga.  Finally I had the experience of going to a Jivamukti class, a specific form of yoga practice.  Jivamukti classes start with breathing and chanting, then the instructor presents a thought for the day for us to consider as we are practicing the yoga asanas (poses) during the class. Finally we chant again to close our practice for that day.  This form of yoga completely spoke to me.  I love the physical challenge of this form that made me sweat after 90 minutes.  I love the peace of the chanting at the beginning and end of class.  I have deep appreciation of the thought about how to live the life in a loving peaceful way.  I love the reminder to breathe that happens constantly during class.  All of these components create peace and health for my mind and body.
I realize that when I don’t practice yoga I feel different.  I miss it. It sustains me.  I find I’m not as compassionate, sure of myself or as calm.  I feel less flexible mentally and physically.  It is a practice that I have to do to remain balanced and open to any situation that shows up in my life.  I love going to class but when I can’t I open up my mat in my living room and practice at home.  It is a gift to be able to practice anywhere!
NOTE - There are many forms of yoga and different forms speak to different people.  If you are not familiar with yoga and want to try it, I recommend you try many different forms until you find the one that speaks to you.  When you do you will understand the joy it brings me too!