In Yoga Thoughts

It rained on my birthday.

But the rain didn’t dampen my birthday one little bit. In fact, when I noticed how wet it was outside, instead of thinking about the glorious spring walk in the woods with my dogs that I would not get to take, I immediately thought, “Yay! Less pollen!”

I had to work on my birthday.

But not having the day off that didn’t distract me from my quiet, inner celebration one little bit. In fact, as I taught my two yoga classes, I felt peppy and creative, kind of like a secret birthday girl.

My son got on the wrong train on my birthday, so I had to navigate Friday rush hour traffic to pick him up at another station.

As I waited for my turn to go through the third round of green at yet another traffic light along the way, I was not bothered at all. I turned the music up and thought about how happy I was that my boy was making the trip home to so all five of us could be together to celebrate.

The manager of the movie theater was super rude on my birthday.

But he couldn’t upset me. In fact, as I watched him yell at the crowds waiting to see the huge new superhero release, I felt a little sad for him. I thought, “What a strange choice, not to have a good day on the best day his theater has had in years.”

I had a great birthday! Yes, my family and friends made me feel special and loved. Yes, I was soaked in an amazing tidal wave of Facebook greetings. Yes, there were some sweet gifts to open. Yes, there was cake.

But looking back I see now that enjoying my birthday was a choice I made over and over again. This realization makes me think Mark Twain was on to something when he encouraged us to:

Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.

We have the power to decide if any day – even a random, cold, damp Tuesday in February – is a good day or a bad one. Our power comes from within as we choose our perspective, as we adopt our attitude, as we determine our mindset.

“Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1:2

Yoga’s seminal text, the Sutras, starts off with the announcement that practicing yoga will help us settle our minds. Anyone who has ever practiced yoga knows that settling your mind is really, really hard to do. Anyone who has ever practiced yoga also knows that, somehow, moving and breathing and twisting on a yoga mat will (sometimes) get you closer to a settled mind than you’ve ever been. Anyone who has ever gotten a glimpse of what having a settled mind feels like, will want to feel like that again (and again and again).

Here’s the thing. Mostly, at least in my own practice, those beautiful days when I get to experience more than a few minutes of a totally settled mind come along about as often as a birthday. My practice has taught me that my “bad days” – days when I’m rattled or upset or distracted or air-headed or hyper can be great days on my mat. These are the days when I am invited – with every breath I take and every move I make (to quote The Police) – to choose my perspective, my attitude and my mindset.

On my yoga mat, this invitation is easier to receive than it is in real life. Yoga simply feels better when you’re focused. In fact, yoga’s breathing and stretching feel so good that it’s hard to stay focused on sadness or madness. Yoga often feels like a physical, emotional and mental “Reset Button” in ways that cold, damp Tuesdays in February don’t.

BUT, if you unrolled your mat and chose to spend a little time moving and breathing and focusing, even a cold, damp Tuesday in February could be reset into a beautiful day (or at least a more beautiful day). All it takes is some practice and persistence in learning to manage your mind, in learning to choose your responses to all that life brings your way. This is what yoga teaches us.

And this is a tremendous gift. You could even say that the ability to choose to have a good day is a superpower of sorts. It can defeat villains of all shapes and sizes: bad weather, work days, mistakes, traffic, rude people. It can even defeat the greatest supervillain of all time, a bad mood.

Looking back at my recent birthday that had its share of “villains,” I think that a superpower like this could make any day feel as good as a birthday. That is a gift indeed.

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