Yoga has a complicated lineage dating back at least five thousand years, is a multi-million dollar industry, is practiced in many different ways, is intriguing yet so very simple. Yoga comes from the word to ‘Yug’ which means to bind or join. A Yug was a traditional way of connecting a carraige to a horse and it is from this metaphor comes the true essence of yoga. Yoga is union
Of course I didn’t know or care about any of this when I slipped rather undramatic-ally into the practice. For me yoga was purely physical. I chose hot power vinyasa. This yoga is flowing and is done in temperatures of up to 36 degrees and to say you sweat is an understatement. The sweat pours out washing away all your sins as I like to think.
The physical side has many benefits and shouldn’t be overlooked. It strengthens our body nourishes your spine, cleanses your insides and helps alleviate aches and pains. This is where most westerners enter the practice, with a desire to be more flexible, lose weight or tone their body inside and out.
So how can something physical help you live your life differently, change the way we view the world or develop and nourish our relationships?
Yoga will challenge us physically ( and mentally). Sometimes we will enter a pose and find we don’t like it, it is too hard or easy, not suited to our bodies or brings up emotions or past hidden pain. Our teacher may ask us to observe these feelings that come up and to make a choice to stay with the pose ( the life obstacle) or to flee. When I first started my natural reaction to any pose I didn’t like or found uncomfortable would be to drop out of it. Others find they over push themselves while some just go half way into a pose. Through the practice of being offered challenges we learn to sculpt our ingrained reactive patterns. Now when I find myself wanting to flee I try to accept some of the difficulties presented to me on the mat and use slow and steady breathing to meet the pose head on without running for the hills. This has helped me in real life when I find myself in an uncomfortable situations I have learned to stay a little longer and face the challenges without being so over reactive.
Sometimes I will teach a class that I think ‘wasn’t that good’ which is a classic judgmental attitude of myself. It is very common for people to judge either themselves or others. But really people/ relationships are seldom how we want or expect it to be. We rehearse our futures relationships ( if I do this or say this then x will happen) or we rehash the past encounters( I should have said x y z). We lay judgement and blame when things don’t go our way, we think why are they doing/saying this to me, what did I do to deserve this? Once I understood that I can’t really control my life to make it perfect or teach the perfect class or be the perfect student I slowly began to see all these judgements I make on myself and others as a way to get things how I want them, a means of control. With every judgement that came my way I started to view them as being there to teach me something about myself. I started seeing them as a way to grow. Once you view a road block as a teacher then the struggle disappears. The problem with us as humans is we so often get caught up in our own melodrama we don’t see ourselves as being any way involved or we see ourselves as being ‘right’. Yoga has taught me to catch myself when the symphony of judgements come rolling my way and look at them with slight amusement and a ‘oh here we go again’ ha ha ha attitude.
Yoga definitely helps to strengthen your relationships by teaching us about love.Firstly we must learn that love starts with ourselves. One of the commandments of yoga is referred to as Ahimsa( compassion). I often forget to be compassionate and forgiving towards myself. I tend to wallow in my mistakes telling myself that I am not good or should do better etc. When we are practicing yoga we learn that when we fall ( literally) it is just a good reason to get up and try again and maybe even see the humour in our descent to the ground. Our teacher may tell us to try again, keep practicing, don’t give up and don’t let your ego dominate how or who you should be in this moment. You are perfect as you are and you are exactly where you are meant to be. Once we understand that we are more than our mistakes or our body or any other ways we choose to define ourselves then we can begin to love ourselves for what we truly are. Once we understand and accept ourselves for what we are then we can begin to love others more deeply and more fully and our relationships can flourish. Practicing yoga has helped me understand and forgive my mistakes and be kind and compassionate to myself and others.
Yoga is a slow and steady practice. Practice is the operative word. Life can be an effective teacher and yoga will open your eyes to this.
Maybe it’s time to open your world view up? Find a teacher that resonates with you and enjoy the process as it unfolds for you.
If you have experienced change in your life through doing yoga in any shape or form even if it is just physically our community would love to read about it. Please post a comment below.