I first read these words and thought, “That can’t be right.” But they continued to rattle around in my head until I understood that they can be an intention rather than an indictment. They can be a lens to help you see the way to be the person you want to be. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, I “lost” a posture that I’ve been doing for years. It’s never been an easy one for me. In fact, more often than I’d like, I would need several tries to get it. But once I got into it each day, I was strong and balanced. If you’d asked me what I was working on the day I lost the posture, it would have been on the list. But nowhere near the top. It was a posture I was refining rather than learning. There were (are and always will be) others that mostly escape me.
This is not the first time I’ve “lost” a posture. It happens. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but I have enough trust in yoga to know it will be back one day. Not only will the posture return to me, but when it does, I will have learned a great deal. When a lost posture re-emerges, it is often in a far more developed form. All this is to say that I’ve spent the last few weeks holding tight to my optimism and seeking the lessons that lie in wait for me.
Yet the way I “lost” the posture has weighed heavily on my heart. Not the physical bit. I know what happened. When I kicked up, my foundation shifted and I nearly fell. Not the emotional bit. I know what happened there, too. I got scared. In fact, I suspect that most of the lessons ahead of me are nestled in learning to face fear.
What’s been eating at me is the brutal way I treated myself that morning. I was militant, unforgiving and harsh. I hammered away at that posture until I was in tears. By the time I rolled up my mat, my elbows were bleeding and bruised. Let’s just say that the external damage was a perfect match to the damage I’d done within. I was as shaken by the onslaught as I was by my wobbly foundation in the posture.
Worries about the “lost” posture itself were dwarfed by a deep-seated fear that I was a yoga fraud. I was in awe of how I’d behaved toward me. Had I learned nothing in the past 14 years? Did I not really believe all that I teach? That what we do when we jump around on our mats is simply the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it’s good for us to have healthier, stronger, more flexible bodies. But, really, the practice is designed to teach us how to treat ourselves and one another. And the way I’d treated myself that morning was the opposite of the love, compassion, gentleness and acceptance that yoga has taught me.
So you can see why the opening quote stirred my pot. If it’s true that “The way you do anything is the way you do everything,” I’m kind of doomed as a yogi. But as these words rattled around in my head, I had an epiphany. I do not need to read them as an indictment. In fact, they present an opportunity to root more deeply into the reason I fell in love with this practice so long ago.
So I had a bad morning. So I behaved in a way that I find abhorrent. So I misused this practice that I treasure. So I got a little crazy. This does not mean that I’m going to behave this way all the time, that I’m going to continue to use yoga as a stick with which to beat myself and my students or that I am actually (full-time) crazy. To cut to the chase, the way I handled that morning is not the way I’m going to handle all future setbacks and failures in my life. Rather, that morning is a light to shine on the way yoga has changed me and the way I live.
In the last 14 years, I have learned to be more loving, compassionate, gentle and accepting of myself and others. It’s one of the gifts of yoga for which I am most grateful. It’s totally changed the way I experience my life. It’s made me a better wife, mother, friend, sister and daughter. It’s helped me train puppies, work on volunteer teams and teach in a way that makes me hopeful that my life will make the world a slightly better place. In short, over the past 14 years, I have worked hard to allow the way I do yoga to touch the way I do everything.
Take a look at the thing you love most to do. It doesn’t matter what it is – skiing, arguing a court case, knitting, gardening, running, writing, being a parent. I suspect that the way you do it – with heart, focus, energy, tenderness, commitment – is the way you do everything when you’re on your game. No worries if you, like me, slip up. Because this is something we love to do, we’ll have plenty of chances to try again.