Hard to sum this up in a few succinct paragraphs…also hard to do without sounding mystical or super hippie-dippy. And–That’s not a bad thing.
Almost 3 years ago I wrote Divinity in a Divine Land, a post in which I describe all the physical elements which made me enjoy yoga so much more than going to a gym:
I get no joy out of adding another pound to my squat maxes or being able to bench press just one more rep. Meh. But in yoga, it’s nearly daily that I get a rush from getting my hands a little closer to my heals during the wheel pose, splitting just a few inches further to the floor (I’ve been successful in doing the front splits for the first time this week!), holding the candlestick just a few seconds longer. Something about the explicit improvement in my poses from week to week gives me a rush the gym never could.
The yoga teacher in my now is struggling with my ego to keep from judging my former self. All physical! Getting joy from going further everyday! Indeed, I even ended this post by happily admitting that I was obsessed with taking yoga photos pretty much everywhere I went.
But this is where the yoga started for me. I jumped into this practice for the physical benefits and sensations, and when those started losing their novelty…something else revealed itself to me–the subtle stillness working its way into my mind.
So I started going with it–noticing that just as my body had become more limber and patient–so had my mind. I noticed the influence that the body has over the mind–as soon as I started my physical practice, my mind had no choice but to release some of its attention to anxious thoughts, and the mind over the body–seeing how my body either molded itself gracefully into practice or resisted with stiffness, based on my mind pattern and stress levels.
My new found self-awareness started giving me freedom, knowing all the ways I was affecting how I showed up in practice and in the world, based simply on ever-changing thoughts. Once I saw how powerful my thoughts were–I started realizing how arbitrary they were too.
Right about this time in my practice–two years in–I went to India to do my yoga teacher training. Cue one of my most influential teachers to date: CK Mahesh. Mahesh revealed to me that one transformative truth, that once you grasp, changes everything. We are not our thoughts. The mind lies, and it lies in words. Take language, take thought away, and you have the true nature of the self. It can’t be seen or explained or taught. It can only be experienced, through experiment.
And from that, freedom.
Yoga has given me freedom.
Freedom to question any story I tell myself. Freedom to forgive. Freedom to love. When the guy I was seeing slept with one of my best friends (the story is more complicated than that)–I was able to see the ego-centric version where I made everything a drama for me and turned myself into the victim and them into people who were impossible to love AND the version where I chose love and forgiveness and saved myself a lot of heartache and disconnectedness and fear. I CHOSE the love side. This is what yoga has given me–the ability to see choice in everything.
Instead of choosing fear or anger or blaming–I practice seeing love. When human nature tells me to react–I chose to understand that all being want the same things–love and acceptance. I chose to challenge the classic tale that in life, someone has to be wrong and someone has to be right.
There are many stories floating around everyday that can hook our attention–we have the choice of what we bite.
And it’s all practice.