My love for yoga is a source of great inspiration for me. I am such a committed practitioner that even in my most busiest times, it was the one thing (besides sleep) that I refused to give up. Yoga has totally changed my outlook on life, and I believe strongly that the toughest yoga is practiced off the mat (i.e when you are not on a yoga mat). And, so much of yoga aligns with my slow dwelling principles that it is almost hard to write a single blog post about yoga. It’s too big. But, I’m going to do it anyways. Here goes.
I think the wonderfully powerful concept of “non-reactiveness” may shed some light on what I find profoundly important about yoga. It was first introduced to me by one of my first yoga teachers, Erica Merrill. She would encourage with statements like this: If you fall out of the pose, simply return to it without reacting. If we were to stay in the pose long enough, everyone would fall out eventually. So when you lose your balance, try to practice non-reactiveness. Just get back in the pose and continue with your practice.
Okay. So for those of you who are not totally blown away by the poetic brilliance in that by simply reading it, I will break it down for what it means to me as best I can…
Sometimes things are hard. In fact, it may take years before you can master it or even make any improvement at all. We get so wrapped up on what we personally can and cannot do, that we forget to cut ourselves a break every once in a while. I have been practicing yoga for about 12 years and some basic poses are still very challenging for me. Others I have come to enjoy only after 5, 7, 10 years of practice. And then there are some that I thought I had down, but I discovered a deeper level of the pose and now am working at all over again. You don’t have to judge yourself on how hard it is, simply enjoy the pursuit. I’ll let you in on a little secret, that’s why it’s called practice.
Getting frustrated doesn’t help. Boy, we sure do waste a lot of energy being pissed off – at ourselves, at others, at injustices in the world. And while channeling frustration can be really powerful at times, living your daily life in a state of tension is not a pleasant experience and leads to a lot of physical and emotional consequences. Notice next time you get mad what happens to your body. Do your shoulders tense up? Do you clench your jaw? Does your breath shorten or quicken? Are you even aware of what set you off? Try to raise your level of awareness. Raising awareness instead of raising your blood pressure is a beautiful experience. (As a side note, practicing non-reactiveness can be really effective at managing pain. We tend to try to fight it. For example, when you get a muscle cramp, try to just notice it without and tensing or cringing. It might just float away).
Just stay in the moment. Just because you get tripped up doesn’t mean you have to lose your flow or your concentration. Life throws a lot of curve balls at you and it’s easy to go chasing after every one (sorry for the mixed metaphor). But, you don’t have to get shaken up when things don’t go as you’d like. You can simply choose to return to where you were. Where you are. Don’t give up. Don’t move on. Don’t start thinking about your to-do list. So you were off-balance. So what? Can you come back to it? It sounds really simple, but actually it’s really hard to put into practice, even with a lot of practice.
For me, yoga is an intensely internal quest that plays strongly into the part of me that is more introverted. And, since it is so internal, I do not talk about it often, and it can be difficult to articulate the benefits. I have been so fortunate to have had amazing instructors who have shared their insights and experiences with me. I noodle it. I try to apply it to my yoga practice (on the mat). I try to apply it to my life practice (off the mat). I hope it’s made you pause for a moment and do a little noodling yourself. Namaste.