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.
Yoga gives us the space to act like better people. We feel better in our bodies, so we’re pleasanter. We have the space (physically and mentally) to take a deep breath, so we’re calmer and more even-keeled. We’re less distracted so we’re able to be fully engaged and compassionate with whoever is right in front of us. We have some space from our feelings, so we’re less likely to react and more likely to respond mindfully. All in all, yoga helps act like the people we want to be.
Acceptance is a big part of living your yoga. It can be tough to pull off during challenging times because it is easily misunderstood. Acceptance is not quitting. Acceptance is not saying, “I’m doomed.” Acceptance does not make a tough moment “forever” any more than the most wonderful moments of your life have lasted forever. Acceptance is simply the willingness to work with what you’ve got. To take the next step – and then the next and the next and the next. Acceptance is choosing to roll with whatever life has brought your way with creativity and grace and the faith that life holds many more twists and turns in store for you.
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.
Is it OK to groan at yet “another flippin’ growth opportunity?” Heck, yes. They can hurt! But once you’re done grumbling, do yourself the favor of stretching. If we don’t consistently push at the edges of our comfort zones, we’re not going to grow. In fact, we risk becoming inflexible and stagnant.
Go ahead. Let yourself “feel all the feels.” And don't be worried if you don’t actually know specifically how or what you're feeling. Knowing you are a mess and need to do something to sort yourself out is enough. A good trick is to unroll your mat. There’s no better place than there to figure out that it’s just life that you’re feeling.
Being yourself is hard. It is easy to get mixed up by the advice and pressures from the world around you. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation and journaling can help you hear more clearly and walk more surely to the beat of your own drum.