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Why Do Yoga? 5 Ways to Build a Practice with Purpose

5 tips to stay inspired in your yoga practice from Twist illustrator Julie PaschkisBy Julie Paschkis
Illustrator of Twist: Poems about Yoga

It can be hard to maintain a yoga practice over time. What keeps you going regularly? How do you get the most out of it? These are the steps I have come up with to ensure that I keep yoga as a key part of my life.

1. Remember why I want to do it. Not why I should do it, but why I want to do it.
2. Listen to my body. Don’t try to look like other people or do something that hurts.
3. Make it a habit. Find the most convenient class and make it a priority to get there every week.
4. Don’t tie myself in knots about it. Breathe!

I illustrated the 2005 book Twist: Poems About Yoga by Janet S. Wong. At that time I went to yoga classes three to four times a week and practiced at home, too. One of my favorite poems was “Down-Dog.” The poem is funny, and I was dogged in my practice. I loved stretching into downward dog pose—it made my heart soar like a bird.

is to dog

as up
is to bird.

Dog starts each morning

Down Dog illustration by Julie Paschkis from the book Twist: Poems about Yoga

About a year ago, I quit my old gym and my favorite yoga teacher moved away. The classes at the new gym were at less convenient times, more crowded, and more challenging. The room was too hot. I was amid strangers instead of friends. For all of these reasons I started going only once or twice a week at most. When I did go, I would look around and see all of the beautiful yoginis gently smiling as they stretched in ways that looked painful and impossible. I know better than to compare myself to other people, but I still did it.

Then I hurt my neck because I wasn’t listening to my body; I was trying to look like the people around me and keep up with them. I didn’t do yoga at all for several months.

When I reflected upon the Twist poems, this one stood out the most:
“Finding the Center”
She reaches—
and she touches.

Knees to nose,
toes to neck.

She is the Super-Yogi.
She is Scorpion,
she is Shooting Bow,
she is Frog,
she is Wheel.

I am doughnut.

Round jelly doughnut,
with a sweet, soft center.

Yoga illustration by Julie Paschkis from the book Twist: Poems about Yoga

I don’t go to yoga to be better at it than other people. I also don’t do yoga to suffer or contort myself in ways that are painful. I do yoga for the way that it makes me present in my body. I do it to feel my breath and to slow down.

In sailing there is a moment when the boat is in the right relation to the wind and the sails billow out. I can get that feeling when I am doing yoga; I stretch into a pose and my breath is that wind. That’s why I want yoga to be part of my life. I needed to find a way to get back to the part of yoga that I love.

Breath is a broom
sweeping your insides.

Smooth and slow:
you pull scattered bits of dream-fluff
and heart-dust into neat piles.

Short and quick:
you coax shards of broken thoughts
out of forgotten corners.

Breath is a broom
sweeping you fresh.

How did I make yoga part of my life again? Imperfectly, but that’s OK. I found a class that I like well enough. I am trying to make it a habit to go every week. Before I go I remind myself what I want to get out of it—to put some wind in my sails. To breathe! Namaste.

Illustrations by Julie Paschkis from Twist: Poems about Yoga

To get more information on Julie’s work, please visit her personal website.

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