What counts as yoga?

I mentioned a little while back that I’m trying to practice five to six times a week, which sometimes means I do a restorative or yin practice to give my body a break from the intensity of the faster-paced vinyasa style I usually enjoy.

But on those slower paced days, I don’t feel quite as though I have really “done yoga.” It’s as though my practice isn’t complete until I’ve moved though several sun salutations, done standing postures for 20 or 30 minutes, and generated some sweat or least some shaking muscles. If it’s physically straightforward, if it’s slow-paced, if I can do all the poses, then it doesn’t feel like my practice “counts” as doing yoga. This is, of course, ridiculous. Yoga doesn’t require a series of poses or a certain amount of physical exertion. Yoga requires presence and breath. With those two elements, a yoga practice can blossom.
And yet, I have been busy convincing myself that moving to the next stage of my yoga practice involves marking certain physical milestones, like being able to do splits, press handstands, and flying warrior. While those are still goals I have for my physical practice, I think I need to dig deeper. For this reason, I’m thinking that the next stage of growth isn’t achieving some bendy pose. Instead, growth will be evident in my ability to find contentment any time I practice yoga.

In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about how one may experience mindfulness while doing something as basic as peeling an orange or drinking tea. I’d love to get to a point where I feel as connected  with the divine when I’m peeling an orange as I do when I’m sitting in a split.

That may mean  I have a quite a bit of yin yoga in my future.

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