Glass Half Full
Yoga Practice and Wine Tasting: A “Perfect” Pairing
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
When people find out that I teach yoga, they often comment that I must be super zen. I respond that it is an ongoing practice.
Similarly, when people learn that I work in the wine industry, they often assume I was born with a well-developed palate. When they comment that the wine world is mysterious to them, I remind them that wine tasting, too, is a practice.
Like anything in life, practice makes perfect, although I would argue that perfection is not the goal or even a possibility in either yoga or in wine tasting.
The famous yoga master, BKS Iyengar, describes abhyasa, or practice, as “a dedicated, unswerving, constant and vigilant search into a chosen subject, pursued against all odds, in the face of repeated failures, for indefinitely long periods of time.”
Wow! And Yes!
If a particular practice is worthwhile and important to you, chances are that quick and easy are not the main attributes. Whether you’re trying to stick Handstand in the middle of the room (or get over your fears enough to try kicking up at the wall), trying to master the aromas of Pinot Noir, or trying to foster a better relationship with someone important, it takes effort, time and commitment.
There are many ways in which my two passions, yoga and wine, are similar. Both are, indeed, practices that require no time to fall in love with, but a long, continuous time to cultivate.
Both yoga and wine require mindfulness. There is a vast difference between simply moving your body and asana. That difference lies in the awareness that you bring to the movement. When we practice yoga, we marry our movement with our breath. It is conscious, connected and keeps us in the present moment.
Similarly, there is a distinction between drinking a glass of wine and tasting a glass of wine. That difference also lies in the awareness and focus brought to the experience. Tasting involves all of the senses. First, we visually examine the wine in the glass. Then we hold the glass close to our nose and smell the different aromas. Finally, as we hold the wine in our mouths, we taste a variety of flavors. Again, we focus on just on what is in front of us and therefore, we are are very present. For both, as we become more aware of the subtleties involved in our experiences, we gain more appreciation for them.
Yoga and winemaking are both age-old practices going back many centuries. Yoga's long, rich history can be traced 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 throughout the Mediterranean when many major wine-producing regions that still exist today were established. While both practices are old, neither are old-fashioned as both yoga and winemaking 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. Whether or not we practice any religion or believe in a particular philosophy, while on the yoga mat, we cannot help but recognize the presence of something greater than ourselves. As long as humans have grown grapes and produced wine, they have recognized and honored the bounty of the earth. At the same time, there has always been a healthy respect for the forces that cannot be controlled by human beings. It is this focus on the greatness of nature with just enough human nurture that produces the most special and unique wines.
Nothing can be completely replicated. Every time you get on your yoga mat, you are guaranteed to have a different experience. The poses themselves do not change. Instead, it is you who changes. Your yoga practice is a living, breathing entity that shifts depending on what is happening in your body, your life, with whom you share it and a million other measurable and immeasurable things. Likewise, each wine wine experience is unique. Depending on the grape varietal, origin, age, year it was produced, what it is paired with and with whom it is shared, each tasting experience is different.
Finally, yoga and wine can both be intimidating. Both are filled with foreign words, both seem to require a teacher and a whole education and with both, there always seems to be someone who knows more than you. At the end of the day, though, what is most important about your time on the yoga mat is that you leave feeling a little better than when you arrived. Body tired, breath soft, voice inside your head a little quieter. What is most important about your interaction with wine is that you enjoy it. It tastes good, it is pleasurable to you, it makes your meal and your time with others better.
Life is better with yoga in it. Life is better with wine in it. Life is certainly better with both. Here’s to time together both on the mat and in the wineglass.
Cheers and Namaste