January 25, 2021
What Is Your Why… and Why?
It’s a question frequently asked by business coaches, motivational speakers and other self-help professionals: What is your why?
No doubt, it’s a great question. When it comes to finding a sense of purpose, honing in on what drives you personally and professionally and figuring out a way forward, asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, can be very revealing and effective.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the same principle applies to yoga. Asking yourself why you’re stepping onto your mat from one day to the next is a great way to motivate your practice and give it direction. There are countless reasons to practice yoga, after all, and many of them involve very different approaches.
For example, if your “why” is to build strength and flexibility, chances are the practice that will work best for you on that day is going to be quite different than if your “why” is simply to slow down and de-stress, or perhaps heal an injury.
To be clear, there are no wrong reasons to practice yoga. We’re all different people with different needs that often change from one day to the next, and part of the beauty of yoga is that there is a practice for everyone, and that practice is free to evolve as the needs of the practitioner shift. Asking yourself why you’re practicing on a given day is an important—if not essential—part of finding the right practice for you.
But there’s another layer to it. The “why” behind your “why,” so to speak.
What do I mean?
Well, let’s say your “why” on a given day is to figure out how to do a challenging arm balance. Or maybe it’s simply to stay on your mat and stay focused and not check your phone or allow yourself to get distracted. Or maybe your “why” is to let go of some anger or resentment that’s shown up in your life.
Whatever your initial “why” may be, there’s usually a deeper intention behind it, and in many cases, if we’re not clear on what that deeper intention is, it can be very difficult to find the resolve and resiliency needed to navigate the inevitable obstacles that must be overcome in order for true, lasting and meaningful change to occur.
In the case of learning how to do a challenging arm balance, the deeper intention might be to do something that scares you, but that deep down you know you can do. In the case of staying focused, the deeper intention might be to give yourself a sense of confidence that you can set a goal and accomplish it. And in the case of letting go of anger or resentment, the deeper intention might be to free up some mental and emotional space to allow for more joy and love in your life.
These are a just a few of many possibilities. If you study the ancient texts, you’ll find a wide variety of others. The Upanishads tell us that the goal of yoga is to unite our individual souls with the Divine. The Yoga Sutras tell us that the purpose of yoga is to understand how our minds work so that we can learn to use them to their greatest effect. And the Bhagavad Gita tells us that the purpose of yoga is act selflessly in order to liberate our souls from mortal suffering.
Maybe these reasons work for you, maybe they don’t. Either way, the most important thing to recognize is that your practice is yours. Other people might be able to inspire you—and hopefully they do—but your reasons for practicing are your own, and the more clear you can be about what they are, the more effective your practice will be, the more joy it will bring you, and the more you’ll feel inspired to return to it again and again.
If your current practice is working for you, more power to you and may it continue indefinitely. If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to find a groove, it might help to ask what your “why” is… and then get curious about the “why” behind your “why.”
Below are some recommended practices to start exploring your why behind the why: