Shit has got to change (if humans are going to have a future)! The way we are living isn’t actually working (it’s killing us!). Seems like everyone can agree with that statement. And then we all get overwhelmed and apathetic.
People often ask me how I’ve made the changes I’ve made in my life and what “secret advice” I have for others that want to do the same. My answer, besides the secret that I’m still a mess and still have plenty of changes to make, is always, Yoga.
People generally loose interest pretty quickly after that… They say, “I’ve done yoga before and it didn’t really do anything for me.” Or, “I’m not really interested in working out surrounded by rich white women in over priced spandex.” And I totally hear that! That is most certainly not what I mean when I say yoga.
There obviously isn’t a one size fits all subscription to happiness or growth and self-improvement. Despite what you heard, it’s not the Keto diet. (Although it may work for you and that’s great!)
But there is mindfulness. There are certain practices we can use to sharpen our focus, build resilience and strengthen our capacity to direct our energy. By that, I mean, to make choices and take action in our everyday lives to create the changes we desire within and around ourselves.
So, what does that have to do with yoga? What is yoga, really, anyway? Can what we do in modern western society even be considered yoga at all? When we say we’re “practicing yoga,” what exactly are we practicing?
I can’t answer this question for everyone, but I can answer it for myself in terms of my own practice and how I show up and what I would like to facilitate for the students I share space with.
And that’s just it. Yoga is a way of carving out space for yourself in your own life. It is movement meditation. It’s the practice of staying present and paying attention. Its the practice of noticing when things are out of balance and making adjustments to restore ourselves (relationships/communities) to center.
In western culture, it begins with the physical body, with showing up, mindfully moving through the same old shapes again and again. We learn to listen to the body, to receive the information it gives us in pain and sensation. We make adjustments to bring more ease, space and freedom into the body, because when we’re in pain, it’s really hard to focus on anything else.
But as we continue to show us, we stretch our awareness to be in many places at once, to honor and hold the true complexity and diversity of our experiences from moment to moment and day to day. We challenge the body, building strength to tolerate discomfort. We begin to sense, from the inside out, when things are out of balance. We continue to practice making adjustments.
We learn to utilize the breath, as a control dial on the awareness. We use it, to create a space within ourselves. We step back to observe and witness our habits and patterns. We notice the way we speak to ourselves when the going gets tough. We begin to see that these are the same ways we speak to the people we love.
By noticing and naming the habits and patterns, we give them a solidity. As they become more tangible, we are able to weed out the ones that aren’t serving us. We plant new seeds. We water the ones we’d like to continue to cultivate with our awareness and intention. The effects of the practice spread out into all aspects of our life. We move towards alignment, not just in the physical body, but between thoughts and words and actions. We develop integrity. So no matter what they world throws at us, how we are tossed around and flipped upside down, we stand strong in our values and purpose.
A big part of it is stamina. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It is a process, that goes on forever and ever, as opposed to a quick little project. We have to continue to show up with our physical bodies and go through the motions, to carve out the space, to create the energetic vortex that takes us deeper and deeper within ourselves to do this work: noticing imbalance and making adjustments.
And as we continue to work, the deeper inside we go, the more far out it gets. The more we begin to see how the patterns and programs of our society have taken root within us. We are reminded of the reflection/projection, conversation between the micro and macro levels of Self and Universe.
This is Yoga – union between individual and cosmic consciousness. We become implicated and invested in making changes not just for ourselves, but for the earth and future generations, to restore balance! We realize that the mindfulness skills we developed through our practice are the same skills required to create social change. But we must use them collectively and in collaboration.
Again, there isn’t one clear cut path towards that creation. But there are many paths converging. We have our bodies and our breath. We have choice and agency in how we show up and how we readjust.
I’ve been developing Teaching to Transform, a 350 Hr Yoga Teacher Training, to facilitate this deeper and more long term yogic practice and vision around justice and change in the world around us. For more information check out my website: http://www.mariposayoganola.com. I’m also available for private yoga sessions, small group and public classes as well as other energy work. Please feel free to reach out if any of this resonates.