Many of us are familiar with the experience of waking up to the fact that our lives are no longer working the way we have set them up. Sometimes this is due to a shift occurring inside ourselves over time, and sometimes it is part of the larger shift that is currently affecting all humanity.
Change is happening at such an increased rate that it is difficult to predict what the future holds. As a result, many of the old ways of planning out a life are no longer applicable, and if we cling to them we feel strangely out of tune with reality. If we are in tune with the energies around us, we will begin to question ideas that just a few years ago seemed sensible.
In the simplest terms, the shift we are undergoing right now has to do with recognizing ourselves as being more than human, remembering that our earthly aspects are a very small part of who we are. In truth, we are multidimensional beings. When we begin to realize this, the life we planned for a limited conception of ourselves no longer fits. We must meet the needs and qualifications not only of our bodies but also of our souls. This realization dawns slowly for some and with the suddenness of a bolt of lightning for others, and we all must find the way that works for us to integrate this new and larger sense of self into our life plan.
Sometimes a drastic change feels totally right, and overnight we might decide to sell our home and move to another country or quit our job and begin a second career. Other times, we allow the changes to proceed slowly, beginning perhaps with allowing ourselves to dream of a new life or just to ask the deeper questions that encourage us to discover our true purpose in life. Either way, know that this process is a natural sign of the growth we are all going through, and trust it to guide you to the life of your dreams.
I learned, early on in my foray into yoga, what an incredibly powerful practice this is. Whatever intention you set for your practice is what will manifest. If your goal is more flexibility or strength, you will achieve this. If your goal is to look good, your ego will grow and each practice will become a performance rather than an exploration of your inner landscape. When scandal befalls a famous yogi, I always think they must’ve lost their way somewhere along the path and set intentions – either consciously or subconsciously – that are in alignment with who they ultimately became. Yoga can bring you power, attention, sexual energy, and an inflated sense of self if you channel your energy towards these things.
Yoga will bring your clarity, humility, wonder, peacefulness, compassion, focus and love if you channel your energy in this direction.
A seed planted deep into the earth, blossoms once it is nourished with water and sunlight. Your inner dialogue, too, acts like a planted seed and unfolds on the physical plane once watered with breath and mindful movement.
This means it is HUGELY IMPORTANT for you to frequently check in with, and monitor your inner dialogue while you practice. If cultivating self-love is your goal and yet your inner dialogue is filled with self-deprecating comments and insults, your yoga mat will simply become a place where you reinforce your negative attitudes towards yourself. It will be yet another place where you are not enough, where you are flawed somehow, where you are failing. It is up to YOU to decide what qualities to manifest, what kind of attitudes and beliefs you want to flourish. Don’t underestimate and misuse the power of this practice and the impactful time you spend on your mat! Today, decide what kind of spring flower do you want to experience yourself as and in what way will you shine your beauty to the world?
The path of hatha (physical asana) yoga teaches that the physical body is the gateway to the heart and spirit. But it is also the obstacle. – David Life and Sharon Gannon
In the world of yoga, we hear a lot about this being a practice of self-acceptance. And yet our experience on the mat seems to do nothing but bring up frustrations with our bodies as our limitations confront us! Rather than slip on headphones and ‘check out’ on a treadmill or stairmaster, we are forced to be fully present with whatever sensations arise in our bodies. We move into side angle pose envisioning grace and strength and instead all we can feel are the rolls of fat on the sides of our waist. We try our mightiest to link our fingers together in a bind but no matter how much we exhale or how red-faced we get, we can’t get the tips of our fingers to touch. Boat pose mocks us as we struggle to keep our legs up and our spine long. As we are guided into pigeon pose, (or heaven forbid double pigeon!), we feel the pent up tension in our hips and the layers of anxiety and anger that reside beneath. We want to experience self-love on the mat but we feel like we are fighting with ourselves and that sometimes the practice is pure struggle, moment to moment.
After 23 years of consistent yoga practice, I can promise you, it does get better! As the body gains strength and mobility, you will find yourself facing less and less resistance in every pose. As life ebbs and flows, weight fluctuates, and injuries or pregnancy affect what you are able to do on the mat, you learn to let go of pushing and striving and simply enjoy the experience of moving mindfully and breathing deeply. I remember, about a decade ago, a wise teacher saying in class, the ‘secret to yoga is don’t try so hard’. I have been rolling around that simple phrase in my mind ever since and it has helped free up my practice immensely!
There are many ways to decipher and translate those words but one way to look at it is to acknowledge that the practice already requires a tremendous amount of physical work so stop trying so hard mentally. Let your body be in the pose and your muscles do the work, but soften the outer shell of your body and the let go of the gripping in your mind. Let the sweat drip off your face but don’t add to the struggle by resisting the work or shunning your body and where it happens to be in that moment, which we must remind ourselves, is a moment in time and in our life that will never come around again, so what a tragedy it would be to deny or reject any part of it! A huge part of learning to love oneself comes when you learn to approach yourself lightly and with humour.