Yoga Practice and Wine Tasting: A “Perfect” Pairing
Yoga and wine: does practice really make perfect?
When people find out that I teach yoga, they often assume I’ve perfected the art of being zen. I must explain to them that yoga is an ongoing practice.
Similarly, when people learn that I work in the wine industry, they assume I was born with a well-developed palate. When they say that the wine world is mysterious to them, I remind them that wine tasting, too, is a practice.
The famous yoga master BKS Iyengar describes abhyasa, or practice, as “a dedicated, unswerving, constant and vigilant search into a chosen subject.” As I complete my studies toward another wine degree, I know that there are always more skills to learn and refine.
The old adage says, “practice makes perfect.” But in both yoga and wine, perfection isn’t the goal. In fact, Iyengar says abhyasa is “pursued against all odds, in the face of repeated failures, for indefinitely long periods of time.” Wow! And yes, a practice never truly ends, but each step of the journey is the experience itself.
Practice takes time
If your particular practice is worthwhile and important to you, it’s not about “quick and easy.” Whether you’re trying to stick a handstand, distinguish the aromas and flavors in Chardonnay or create a better relationship with someone important, it takes time, effort and commitment.
There are many ways in which my two passions, yoga and wine, are similar. I fell in love immediately with both. But it took a long, dedicated time to cultivate my expertise.
Both yoga and wine require mindfulness. There is a vast difference between practicing asanas, or yoga postures, and simply moving your body. When we practice yoga, we marry our movement with our breath. The awareness that we bring to this movement is conscious, connected and keeps us in the present moment.
Similarly, there is a distinction between drinking a glass of wine and tasting one. Fully tasting wine involves the awareness and focus with which you bring your multiple senses to the experience. First, you visually examine the wine in the glass. Then you hold the glass close to your nose and smell the different aromas. Finally, as you hold the wine in your mouth, you taste a variety of flavors. Again, we focus on what is in front of us; therefore, we are present in our experience. As we become more aware of the subtleties in our experiences, we gain more appreciation for them.
Your yoga and wine practices will change with time
Yoga and winemaking are both age-old practices going back many centuries. We can trace yoga’s long, rich history back to ancient India at least 5000 years ago. It has developed over time to become the group of physical, mental and spiritual practices we know today. Likewise, winemaking can be traced back beyond 4000 BC. Wine has evolved as a part of life, culture and diet. Wine-making emerged in Europe with the expansion of the Roman Empire. As they made their way through the Mediterranean, they established many major wine-producing regions that still exist today. While both practices are ancient, both yoga and wine-making have adapted to modern techniques and changing attitudes.
Both yoga and wine involve a spiritual connection to Mother Nature. When we practice yoga, we are connected down to the earth and up to the heavens and to every other being on the planet. While on our mats, our connection to something larger than ourselves is undeniable, regardless of our religious or philosophical differences. As long as humans have grown grapes and produced wine, they’ve recognized and honored the bounty of the earth. They’ve always had great respect for the forces that cannot be controlled by human beings. Winemakers who focus on the abundance of nature with just a little human nurture produce the most special and unique wines.
Nothing can be completely replicated. Every time you get on your yoga mat, you are guaranteed a different experience. The poses themselves do not change—instead, you do. Your yoga practice is a living, breathing phenomenon that shifts depending on what is happening in your body, your life, who you share it with, and a million other measurable and immeasurable things. Your yoga practice always meets you right where you are and moves forward with you. Likewise, each wine experience is unique. Depending on a wine’s varietal, origin, year and age, as well as with what it was paired or with whom it was shared, each tasting experience is different.
Enjoy your practice as it develops
Finally, yoga and wine can be intimidating. There always seems to be someone who knows more than you. Both practices require teachers and education to explain all of the foreign words. At the end of the day, though, what matters most is that you enjoy your yoga and wine experiences. Simply put, your yoga should make you feel good and your wine should taste good and enhance that which it accompanies.
Indeed, life is better with yoga in it. Life is better with wine in it. Life is certainly better with both.
I cherish the opportunity to combine my love of yoga and my love of wine. Join me for my upcoming Vineyards and Vinyasa Wine and Yoga Retreat on the North Fork of Long Island this October. We will practice yoga and wine tasting, share great conversation and enjoy the beauty of being close to nature. I look forward to your good company.
Cheers and Namaste.