“We have captured our sparks and collected our tools. Now it is time to shape our lives. Just as we have harnessed the discipline to shape our bodies into poses, we use the same lessons to shape our perspective, to admit our truths and to see past the negativity and distractions that wear us down. To do this, we must burn away misconception and careless action. We require self-honesty and determination to make decisions that may not be easy, but are better. Once we call out those things that make us unhappy, we allow room for what we truly need and the simple and undeniable pleasure of our work will lead us to a balanced life unencumbered by needless anxieties.”
There is a phrase that we use sometimes when things are moving fast: blink and you’ll miss it.
The last few My Year of Yoga posts I’ve started, I have found this has been the case. There are so many things to talk about, so many aspects of yoga as it applies to our lives and vice versa that every time I work on one idea, ten others of equal importance pop up. And every time I teach a class, people talk to me about even more.
I want to be able to speak to what is important at the moment, as yoga is, but the truth is that there are so many important things that to begin one begs for reference to them all.
To me, this is the same as when a class that you wanted to focus on becomes overwhelming – one of those days when your thoughts are not on the poses with your mind a step behind the instruction and it never does come together until you stop, clear everything and start over.
In light of there being so many possibilities to discuss, I chose to stop and restart with a more broad perspective. Instead of getting stuck talking about anything separately, I choose to talk about everything together.
The Forge workshop is only a few days away and that theme couldn’t be more appropriate to discuss. Look past negativity and distractions. Don’t settle for misconception and cease careless actions. Self-honesty and determination are qualities that will benefit you. Identify the things makes you unhappy and replace them with the things you love.
I watch a lot of people struggle with poses. Some are pushing too hard. Some are looking for short cuts and some just need more information to do them correctly. But all of these people have one thing in common: they are focused on the pose and not their practice.
When yoga is not working for you, it is because you are not allowing it to. You have brought something into it that does not belong, otherwise there would be no anxiety and no negativity.
Striving to better your practice is absolutely part of yoga, but to force it to happen more quickly is not. Here is where we must embrace patience and discipline. The patience is in the fact that we accept it will take longer to build the strength or flexibility to do the pose correctly. The discipline is in the fact that we commit to giving ourselves that time and seeing it through.
Impatience leads to mistakes. Would you live in a house that was built faster than the others in the neighborhood? Would you drive a car that was built faster than the other models? The answer is obvious and the same principles apply to the way you treat your body and build your practice. Mistakes only lead to more mistakes.
Discipline does not have to include pain or punishment. Strength is best built upon layers of a practice that seeks to avoid injury, not by continuously injuring yourself. You don’t tear down portions of your house to make it stronger. You don’t wreck your car to make it run better. Why would you tear up your body, or even more often your mind, to improve yourself? That is the misconception. Choosing to punish yourself physically or emotionally is careless action.
Self-honesty requires that we admit to ourselves why we would allow ourselves to do these things and there are a million reasons. A bad day at work makes it all too easy to throw yourself into your practice, but that is a reaction to negativity and not a planned and careful pursuit. You are better off deciding what it was that made the day bad for you and addressing that point. And yoga will prove this to you by not letting you run from your problems – under these conditions the poses will not come. You will have to force them. If you ever find yourself forcing a pose, it is yoga’s way of telling you that something else is bothering you. You should be happy with your practice wherever it is at and accept that it is doing exactly what it should for your body. To be unhappy with your practice is to be unhappy with yourself, but yoga is there to help you fix all of it.
Let your determination focus on what you need to help you. Truly. Then you will be in the best place to help yourself and others.
Self reflection over what makes us unhappy is like a stormy day. There are periods of sunshine and then the dark clouds build over us. The wind will blow, the rain will pour down and then the light will break through again. Your instinct might be to hide from the storm and wait for the sun to break though. Others might rush out into the storm, risking their safety with abandon.
But those that take yogic philosophy into consideration will note that storms are as much of a part of life as sunny days. We will all experience them and just as we can prepare for the storm and accept it in all of it’s danger and beauty, we can also accept that some things in life will absolutely make us unhappy and we can plan how to react to that, not by denying it, running from it or encouraging it to hurt us more, but by accepting it as a part of life and deciding which aspects of it we will allow vs. which aspects we need to change.
A person that lives in a valley that floods every time it storms should consider moving to higher ground. A person that experiences unhappiness with the same situation over and over should consider moving to another situation. Unhappiness is a part of life, but do not allow it to be too much of a part of yours. There must be balance. Have the discipline to recognize when you are too unhappy and embrace the strength to change that situation.
It is often not until we allow ourselves to move away from unhappiness that we truly discover those things that make us happy. Being in a bad situation is not the time to try and correct it with a good situation. You might be cold in the middle of winter, but you can’t change that by slipping on a bathing suit and pretending that it’s warm.
Have the discipline to move at a pace that works. Let the process work for you. Let yoga work for you.
Sometimes all you need to get warm is a moment by the fire. Make sure not to prevent yourself from standing next to the fire. Let you be you and don’t shut yourself out into the cold.
When things are in balance, as yoga teaches us and allows us to achieve, you might be surprised how often contentment settles into your life. And contentment is a very good and valuable thing.
The Forge is how I think of using the tools that yoga gives us to shape our lives. There is discipline, but in its most true definition. Strength is needed, but we all have the ability to be strong. Shaping is necessary, but there is contentment to be had in the process and that goes a long way in this world of plastic, constant interruption and seemingly never ending mirages. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do to touch ground is to let yourself work at your own pace and enjoy your own progress. No one can take that away form you, thus you create your own happiness and when those storms come, you’ll be ready. Let’s do this!