Yoga is many different things for many different people. It is so easy to get stuck in the outer form and the way that we believe our practices should look. We can easily attach to a certain way of experiencing ourselves, thus limiting the possibilities that actually exist. Our beliefs often create a specific lens that automatically focuses in on one prospective while ignoring the peripheries that are just outside of our vision.
Yoga is not a religion, a dogma, or a set of rigid rules to be followed blindly. It isn’t even a physical exercise although it recognizes that only through the body and mind can we truly experience ourselves. There is not ONE right method, style, or tradition that works for everyone.
I see the ‘Truth’ as something fluid and liquid like water. Its forms and manifestations shift and change as we expand and grow. Like the turning of the lens of a camera to change the focus, our truth may differ depending on our perspective and mindset. Our own truth may change throughout our lifetime.
So what does Yoga look like in our lives? Is it simply a hour we carve out of our day to do some breathing and moving on our sticky mats? Or 30 minutes of sitting to quiet our minds and find a state of meditation? Maybe we practice chanting mantras and sing Kirtan?
Regardless of what we are practicing, I choose to see Yoga as a guiding force and a vision for how to live our life and our relationships. The practices are tools that we learn how to use in a ‘controlled and specific’ environment, and that ultimately prepare us for the bigger life situations that we will be confronted with. So what does a ‘Yoga Lifestyle’ look like and what are the benefits?
In essence, Yoga is a guide on how to achieve balance and harmony between the mind, body, and heart, both individually and in relationship with the world around us. We apply the principles of Yoga to our daily lives which leads to heightened awareness and self-reflection. Self-love and self-knowledge begin to emerge as the driving force behind our actions, thoughts and words. Our daily practices build the skills and patience needed to live our emotional lives in response to any given situation, as opposed to conditioned reactions based on past experiences. We are able to slow down, reflect, and observe from a place of stability and calm.
If our practices aren’t allowed to broaden and be woven into our daily lives then they can become something separate, irrelevant, and non-relational.
We all desire happiness, joy, freedom and peace. We want to understand our selves and the world we are currently experiencing so that we can lessen the suffering and the pain that inherently comes with the physical body and the natural cycles of life. We want vitality and stamina to fuel our dreams, hopes, and desires. We need passion and a sense of commitment to keep ourselves going through the challenges or lulls along the path. We want to know what truly motivates us and gives us meaning and purpose.
All that we are doing and practicing on our mats is a metaphor for what we must ultimately bring into every fabric of our daily lives. This mostly means our relationships, with others and with ourselves.
The greatest gift that Yoga has given me is the capacity to see all situations and relationships as OPPORTUNITIES. I have come up with three categories that allow me to better understand my self and the role I play in what is happening around me. The basic vision is that we are accountable at all times for how we respond to any given circumstance, thus leaving no room for victimhood or blame or guilt. I see all moments as opportunity for either:
Growth, expansion, self-awareness and reflection. We create situations/relationships that offer us the prospect to change, reflect, evaluate, and ultimately to transform.
Fun, pure happiness, and play. It is essential to experience ourselves as lightness of being, free and happy without an agenda or deeper intention other than just being the love and joy in ease and at peace.
Devotion, being of service, and giving. This is where we experience our highest purpose and can move out into the world with our unique offering.
A yogic lifestyle is a life of paying attention, staying open and awake while cultivating non-attachment to any situation, emotion, person or object. It is a life lived in the fullness of our desires, willing to embrace the whole spectrum of each immediate moment. It is the constant remembrance that this life, this body, this experience is a blessing.
To learn more about how to bring Yoga off the mat and into our daily lives join me for international retreats and our yearly Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica.