Yoga is much more than just a sport, but the practice of asanas does mirror other sports in the sense that balance, flexibility, strength, determination, and intense physical exertion are all required for a successful outcome.
But where yoga quickly and decisively diverges from other sports, even when we isolate our conversation to the physical practice of asanas, is that in most sports gutting it out, continuing to fight through the pain, is considered the highest ideal whereas in yoga it’s just the reverse. The sign of an advanced practice is to take a break when you need it.
I love this inversion in thinking on what constitutes increasing mastery over the physical body. It’s really a question of mindfulness versus mindlessness, tuning in versus tuning out. In yoga it’s about being completely aware of your body in the moment, where you push it exactly as far as it’s ready to go and then back off when you need to without letting your ego, with all its false pride, supplant you as the CEO of your body.
Whether you’re laying on your back or crushing out a difficult sequence you are practicing yoga as long as you are using your Ujjayi breathing to bring full awareness to your body in the moment, peeling back those layers as you continue your inward journey towards Self.