"Practicing" vs. "Doing"

If you're into yoga, you've probably said both:

"I'm going to practice yoga.

vs.

"I'm going to do yoga."

I have picked up on this small variation in language and it's got me thinking. In teaching yoga, I am a big proponent of using "practice" vs. "do" when I refer to the process. Why? Let's look at the definitions of both: 

PRACTICE verb 

  • to do something again and again in order to become better at it 
  • to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life
  • to live according to the customs and teachings 

DO - transitive verb  

  • to bring to pass / carry out
  • to bring to an end / finish
  • to put forth / exert
  • to partake of 

In a sense, you truly can "do yoga". By definition, you can exert effort toward and partake in asanas (physical postures). You carry out your poses using breath and movement. You begin and end yoga by going to and from your mat. 

But - what if we thought about yoga from a practice perspective? Isn't it true that when we go to our mats, we do it because we want to do our favorite (and maybe not so favorite) asanas again and again - with hopes of improving? Perhaps we go to our mat with intentions of managing daily stress by maintaining stability and focus for our minds and bodies. While yoga itself is not a religious practice, many individuals use their practice as a way to follow their own unique spiritual path using ancient yoga texts as guides. 

For me, "doing yoga" suggests mastery, achieving the end goal, and a sense of accomplishment. While I admit that it feels pretty damn good to finally stick a tough arm balance, I don't see yoga as a means to an end; rather, I view yoga as a practice that requires dedication, effort and most of all: patience. Calling it your yoga practice keeps a lighthearted meaning behind your effort, allowing you to forgive yourself if you're wobbling in Warrior III a little more than usual or you're unable to control your racing mind during savasana. Practicing yoga allows you to come to your mat with intentions of allowing the process to unfold rather than holding expectations of what "shouldbe happening. 

With this in mind, I'll leave you with one of my favorite yoga quotes:

"Practice and all is coming."

-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 - 2009), founder of Ashtanga Yoga