Why do you practice?

“I keep coming back to the mat because it continues to inspire me off the mat. I end up figuring out things about myself when I do my yoga practice that I then can apply to my life off the mat. And it’s so amazing like that. It just keeps going.” —Julie Dohrman

Wise words from Julie Dohrman, our favorite teacher and person on the planet. If someone were to ask you why you practice, what would you say? Have you ever asked or answered the question? Have you answered it multiple times and found your answer evolving?

Our own answers have grown and shifted along with our practice. In the beginning I (Martine) did yoga because it toned my arms (Hey! I said it was the beginning!), and the practice constantly surprised me with its difficulty and athleticism. I also found the smell and the sound of the studio’s worn wooden stairs comforting because they reminded me of the ballet schools I’d attended as a teenager. There was something at once familiar and utterly new about every class I took. Some poses felt like a cozy dance position that reaffirmed everything I knew and liked about myself; others bucked my self-conception and challenged me to see my potential with eager and clear eyes.

Gnarly, right?

A few years ago when I returned to yoga after months of painful disability, my reasons for practicing were completely different: I didn’t care about muscle definition or being able to rock astavakrasana, I just wanted to relieve pain and regain mobility in my joints. Yoga was instrumental in helping me reconnect with my body and, more importantly, in giving me back a sense of agency. On the mat, stiffness loosened its grip on my body; off the mat, my body’s developing agility slowly unclenched my mind. I began to feel more like myself. Some of my doctors and therapists were astonished, but I wasn’t. I knew the power of the practice.

These days, I practice for many reasons: because it feels good, because it’s fun, because I want to learn more of yoga’s secrets, because I want to know in my muscles and bones what it is I am made of, because I can, and because it’s like saying Yes to being alive. You?