That is a fundamental question. It’s my belief that, if we can formulate a succinct answer to this question – something that we can sum up in one or two sentences – it can go a long way toward helping us maintain our motivation through both good and bad times.
Let’s tease this out a bit…
There are many reasons that people practise yoga so I’ll just list a few here. Some of them will resonate with you and others won’t:
- To cultivate or maintain a healthy body
- To cultivate or maintain a healthy mind
- To increase the likelihood of living a long life
- To gain a degree of self-awareness
- To be part of a community of practitioners
- To achieve mastery over the body
- To achieve mastery over the mind (and decrease mental chatter)
- To achieve certain yoga postures for their own sake or for the feeling of accomplishment it brings
- To challenge oneself on a daily basis
- To get that amazing feeling that you always get after practice
- To look good and have a beautiful body
- To gain recognition from our peers for being advanced in yoga postures
- To feel empowered by taking responsibility for our own well-being
- To gain a sense that we a growing and learning throughout our lives
- To benefit those people close to us by improving our mood/attention-span/awareness/compassion etc.
- To maintain our sense of identity as somebody who practices yoga
- To live up to the expectations of others
- To simply enjoy the feeling of doing the practice
Personally speaking, I am willing to acknowledge that every one of those (to a greater or lesser degree) has acted as motivation for me to practice at some stage during my journey with ashtanga yoga (except for maybe the ‘recognition from our peers’ one). There is no doubt, though, that each of these factors (and I am not pretending that this is an exhaustive list) takes on a different weight depending on the different circumstances that come along throughout our lives.
So I do think it’s worth reviewing this list and adding anything else that feels relevant to you. Then try to really figure out what it is that is currently motivating you to practice. Try to distill it down to one sentence if possible. For example, “I practise because I have noticed that on days when I do practise I feel better, I am more motivated at work, I have more energy, and I am nicer to my co-workers (or at least able to deal with their problems more easily).”
Remembering why we practise is often all we need to get us to actually do it.
And the next time you’re just about to hit the snooze button in the morning or order that take-away in the evening instead of going to practise you can remember that one sentence. Maybe it will help you to get on your mat and maybe it won’t but it’s worth a try, right?
Some days we need every trick in the book to get us to roll out that mat, but we all know that we have never, ever regretted doing it. So I say if you need extra motivation, or even to trick yourself into practising, on any particular day then do whatever it takes.