Yoga has made me certain that the differences I discover between myself and others can be life-giving. Each time I’m struggling to find something in common with someone else is a moment that could be filled with growth and mutual learning if I can stay open and curious about the differences between us.
Self-study is part of yoga's moral foundation, yet many students feel like they don't have the time or energy to devote to more yoga. The good news is that self-study is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we expose ourselves to new ideas, the more we will notice these ideas in all areas of our lives. Being a perpetual student enriches our life experiences on and off the mat.
It is surprisingly easy to forget that yoga postures are a means to an end. Please read that again. And again. All the jumping around we do on our yoga mats is not yoga. It’s a part of yoga. (In another essay, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of how tiny a part of the practice it is. I’ve got solid arguments that it’s somewhere between 1/7th and 3/196th.) The postures are a tool that yoga offers us to help us better experience the gift of our life. They are a tool that yoga offers us to help us live more like the people we yearn to be.
Do you feel hurried all the time? Do you sprint through your days? I used to be a fast person (a fast walker, fast talker, fast eater, fast worker ...). Yoga has changed me. I'm now a little slower because I've learned how to immerse myself into my experiences each step along the way. It turns out that slower is a very nice way to be.
Why not resolve to let something go this New Year's rather than taking something on? Something that is weighing you down, making you feel cramped or holding you back from chasing your dreams? It’s very human to hold on tight to the familiar. Join me in being brave. Remember that it’s only when we relax and open our tight, fist-like grip, that we have space in our hand (or heart, or life … ) to receive the gifts that Life has to offer. I wish you a happy and perhaps lighter new year!
Yoga had something new to teach me about practice – and it didn’t take long to do so. Almost before I knew what was happening, I realized that I was practicing yoga not to get better at doing yoga, but to get better at approaching life the way I was learning to approach yoga on my mat. When I practiced yoga, I was practicing a way of being. I kept practicing because I wanted that way of being to become a habit that supported me all day long.
When a very close friend reacted with near speechlessness to my menu-, schedule- and list-free state one week before hosting Thanksgiving, I calmly said to him, “Good enough is going to have to be good enough." Not only was good enough good enough, but believing it was kept me as calm and centered over the holiday as the most perfectly-planned plan.
Struggle makes you a better person. Trust me. I speak from lots and lots of experience here. Injury. Illness. Imbalance. Pure inability. All have had more to teach me on my yoga mat than any teacher I’ve ever had (and I’ve had some really, really good ones). While I’m still waiting to be enlightened enough to actually feel thankful while in the grips of my pain, fear or frustration, because of my yoga practice, I am aware that I will (eventually) feel grateful for each of my struggles. This awareness makes me patient. It makes me persistent. It allows me to accept my inability – for now. It's not surprising that I am glimpsing this same strength and resilience in myself off my mat as well.
I did not have great experiences with philosophy classes in my years of higher education. Somehow, not a single one of my professors had ever been able to make me see the real-world applications of all these things that other people, ages ago, had thought about. When I started to study yoga philosophy, I understood immediately that it is less about ideas and more about living. From the very beginning, it was clear to me that yoga philosophy was something I wanted to think about. More importantly, it was something I wanted to do – all of the time.