by Aaron Styles

Millions of people practice yoga for many different reasons. One of the most beautiful things about yoga is how varied it is. Some styles of yoga focus more on mental/spiritual practices while other styles focus primarily on physical asanas (postures).  There is not one particular style of yoga that is better or more effective than another. Each person will experience their own unique journey through yoga and find a style that works best for them. As a community it’s important that we never criticize or negate any style of yoga. They all have a purpose even if it does not fall in line with our personal values or beliefs.

In my late teens I made poor life choices that led to an addiction to partying and drug use. When I realized I needed to make a change I started looking for something that could help motivate me get my life back on track. I found a fitness program offered by youtube blogger  “Davey Wavey”. Part of the program included two short yoga videos. I fell in love with the movements and how it made me feel after. This inspired me to seek out a local studio to practice at. After doing some online searching I found The Hot Yoga Spot and started to attend classes regularly.

When I first started practicing yoga I was very interested in power yoga which helped to build up my strength while increasing my flexibility. I was very intrigued by the advanced postures, especially arm balances. I was so focused on the physical practice that I wasn’t even aware of how much more mindful I was becoming in the process. I pushed myself to practice every day and set certain postures as goals to achieve. At the time it was exactly what I needed. It helped me boost my confidence and redirected my energy away from the party scene. I needed that fire and heat to move forward.

I completed my 200-hour teacher training program with Frog Lotus Yoga in 2012. During the program I learned so much more about the history and philosophy of yoga. It opened up a whole new world for me to explore. I became very interested in meditation and other mindfulness practices. It was during this time that my yoga practice began to evolve. When I stepped onto my mat it wasn’t just about the physical body anymore. I was much more aware of how yoga was guiding me towards a place of mental clarity and understanding.

In 2016 I became very interested in how yoga can be used in a therapeutic way to promote health and balance to the body. I trained with Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine and learned how individualized yoga applications may help with dysfunctions of the spine, shoulder, and hip. It’s amazing how beneficial yoga can be for promoting optimal health.

My physical practice now is much different than it used to be. I listen to my body and let my body guide me. Some days I practice just one or two restorative postures. Some days I find myself powering through a two hour long vinyasa flow. Some days I keep it gentle and just stretch where it feels good. Some days I work to restore the balance between tight and weak muscles. Some days I practice ashtanga. Some days I practice kundalini. Some days I don’t do a physical practice at all.

My goal in yoga is no longer getting stronger, getting sweaty, advancing my practice, or having my ass kicked. Do those things sometimes happen in the process? Of course. When I step on my mat I always ask myself, “What do I need?”. I listen and then I just let it happen. I find it very important  to vary the types of yoga that I practice. It keeps me feeling energized and balanced. When I’m feeling over stimulated or physically exhausted I know it’s time for a more gentle/restorative approach. When I need an energy or confidence boost I know it’s time to amp it up and get my power on.

While I may not practice yoga on the mat every day, I am always practicing yoga off the mat. The knowledge and insight I’ve gained through my years of practice and study helps me stay grounded, present, and self-aware. It’s important to remember that practicing yoga does not lead to a life of perfection. I still make mistakes. I still may caught up in my emotions. When this happens, I use yoga as a way to get back on track and realign myself.

My suggestion to you: Continue to learn as much as you can about yoga and discover what styles or techniques work best for you. I firmly believe that there is a type of yoga for everybody. Expect that your yoga practice will most likely evolve over time. Embrace change and try new things. Stay in tune with your body, mind, and spirit. Embrace yourself. Embrace your yoga practice.

I’d love to hear about your journey through yoga and what yoga means to you! Please let us know in the comment section below.

About Aaron
Aaron Styles is a yoga instructor and educator living in Albany, NY. He enjoys sharing his passion of yoga with others. He views yoga as a means to reach one's greatest potential. His brand, Styles Yoga, offers high quality yoga education programs and blissful destination yoga retreats.
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