Why I Practice Yoga by Erin Ward

When people learn that I’m a Yoga Teacher upon meeting me, the first comment is often, “Wow you must be so flexible.” Occasionally, there’s the subtly cynical remark, “I wish I could stretch all day and get paid…”

Though, there is some truth to it. My body has responded to consistent practice with increased flexibility and strength, and I’m in yoga clothes a majority of the day. I do not spend all my time in asana, and the physical effect is not the reason I’ve dedicated my life to this work.

I practice yoga, meditation, movement, and breath work because being a human is the most complicated thing any of us will ever do. There’s no escaping our humanity while we’re in these physical bodies. (Perhaps one day, in a time of holograms, this post will be null.) And so we must develop tools and techniques to help us navigate transitions, and offer ourselves the opportunity to find ease and joy amidst continual change.

I practice yoga because it saved my life and continues to do so. At 19, I had a crisis. My chronic perfectionism led me through a battle with an eating disorder and into a spiral of self-loathing. During those dark couple of years, I never felt that I was enough. There was always something to improve, or change, or work harder for. I couldn’t bring myself to a place of love, no matter how hard I tried to be “better” and fit my perceived image of perfectionism. At my core, I didn’t believe I deserved love. None of my coping mechanisms were working. In fact, exercising was making it worse. My writing was challenging and forced. And I pushed my closest relationships away. 

Then, I found yoga. For the first time, I felt safe in my body. I was allowed to be me - to move, to breathe, to not change anything, but to simply be present, and have an experience. After years of practice, I saw the change that had organically taken place for me on a soul level. Through yoga, and the emergence of its various forms,  I had healed my eating disorder, and had even come to celebrate my body. I began to view it as a container for my heart, my mind, and my connection to something much bigger than myself.

Physical flexibility is important for long term health and comfort in the body, and it certainly enhances any athletic activity. But once one begins their journey on the yogic path, the physical benefits take a back seat to the wonder and awe that emerges from a consistent deepening of the relationship with oneself in the present moment.

I practice the 8 limbs of yoga because I want to reach into the edges of my humanity, and discover what’s waiting for me there. I want to feel every feeling there is to feel while I’m in this body. I want to remind myself of a truth we all know deep down - that we are innately connected to each other. I want to feel, and understand in my bones, that I am part of creation, and thus, I will be taken care of. I will cyclically grow and change, and one day, I will transition out of the physical plane.

I practice because I’m a human, and it is a messy, unpredictable, chaotic, and beautiful ride. And I believe in my bones that we can each develop the capacity to celebrate it all. 

Join Erin to deepen your practice and fall more in love with yourself on the Movement, Meditation & Magic retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru, from December 1st to 7th.