Yoga is a fascinating adventure. I’ve said for years that yoga saved me. But what I’ve come to realize is that’s an inaccurate statement. I saved myself. Yoga was simply a beautiful tool, a way of being that I chose to incorporate into my life that supported the work I was doing to help myself heal and grow. It was how I found a way to live, breathe and move in this world as I rediscovered how to take ownership and be responsible for myself and my well-being. Throughout the insanity of this Covid 19 situation, I was “gently” nudged to go inside, deepen my practice and attempt to figure out what it means to me to truly LIVE yoga. Although I love my movement practice, I have discovered along the way that yoga goes way beyond the rolling out of the mat. During my time of reflection, here are some things I’ve discovered that have made the biggest difference in how I live now.
First, yoga is a practice. There is no end game, no competition and no finish line. It is ever evolving and constantly changing. Sometimes my practice is frequent and hard core. Sometimes I pull back and practice less. Sometimes I do nothing at all. Underlying all of it though, is me listening to what my body, mind and spirit want and need in each moment and honouring that through releasing expectations and potential judgement of what “should” be and accepting what is. Over the years, I have been in front of 100’s of bodies and one message I constantly share is that, “You know your body way better than I ever will.” Each individual knows what feels right, knows what is helpful or unhelpful, knows when they are being challenged and knows when they need to do different to avoid injury. Whether it is on the mat or off, physical, mental or spiritual, it is the tapping into that inner wisdom and really learning to trust yourself while releasing judgement that helps create depth in a practice and in one’s experience of the world. Taking responsibility for my own experience and learning to honour my own knowing of what is right for myself has in turn allowed me to honour and respect the same knowing in another.
Second, yoga has taught me to observe, accept & allow what is without attachment to what I thought it should be. Initially it was accepting that I couldn’t hold down dog for more than 3 breaths and would have to often find rest in child’s pose. I learned to accept, that despite the incredible flexibility in my body, I had no strength or endurance. The same could be said for my life off of the mat as well. I was always beyond flexible but I lacked strength and endurance. Over time and with continued practice things changed and the strength and endurance developed. Eventually, that learning to observe, accept & allow transitioned off of my mat and I began to more easily accept what was happening in my life. By accepting, I do not mean playing victim or being disempowered. What I mean is that I was able to see it and accept that it was there. I no longer wallowed in wishing it was different (although I still definitely have moments of moving through hating what is and wanting something to be different) while taking the necessary steps to move forward through the moment into what is next. Challenges and adversity are a part of life and growth, and are not permanent. They are things we practice moving through.
Third, yoga is the union of opposition. It is finding the balance between breath and movement, effort and ease. There is space for light and dark, for helpful and unhelpful, for competing thoughts and belief systems. There is value in each moment and in all experiences if we choose to see it that way. We are currently in a world where we are being challenged with holding space for trust and deception, good and evil, fear and faith… in believing there is good in what we may have experienced as bad while being faced with acknowledging bad in what we thought was good. The Yang-yin symbol shows there is light in the dark and dark in the light. All divinely masculine beings have feminine energy and all divinely feminine beings have masculine energy. The left wing and the right wing are both wings on the same bird. Duality has always existed but I don’t know if it has ever been more blatantly apparent. How on earth do we integrate all that we are experiencing right now? For me, it has become about locating that ever moving sweet spot in the middle and finding a way to hold space in this world for these dualistic thoughts, beliefs and experiences, while honouring my personal truth and doing my best to do no harm.
Throughout the past 8 months I have had to practice all of these things in ways I could not have imagined. I have lost work, friends and have had to move twice. None of this was in “my plan”. A large part of my world turned upside down in a 24 hour period. Over the years, I have developed an interesting relationship with adversity so I was able to move through it all (yes, there were some growing pains) with a greater level of grace and ease through the practice of observing, accepting, & allowing, while taking the necessary steps forward because I recognized it for what it was…. the universe realigning me to be exactly where I was meant to be.
Through my experience of this current situation, I became acutely aware of people’s need to be heard, to be right and their absolute inability to hold space for anything other than what they believe. I have observed intolerance, divisiveness, and judgement. I have observed people who teach and preach acceptance and compassion quickly and harshly judge and condemn individuals who view things differently. I have seen the kindest, most heart driven humans be horribly mean to others. On the flip side, I have also observed kindness, compassion, patience and acceptance. I have observed individuals attempting to understand another, I have seen people creating community through common goals (despite varying beliefs) and I have seen strangers reaching out to offer support to people they do not know. And on occasion, I have seen individuals do all of this.
Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” We can see dark because we contain dark. We see judgement because we contain judgement. We see peace because we contain peace. And when we see love, it is because that is our divine nature… we are love.
As we move forward into whatever is coming, however this all plays out, I encourage you to observe what is happening around us – the stories, the judgements, the constant attempts to create division based on beliefs, gender, ethnicity, colour… whatever words and labels that are being used to create division, disconnection and divide. Simply observe it for what it is without attachment. And then look beyond all of it if you can, and see if you can find the place in the middle, the balance, the union where the beauty in each unique body and each diverse, sacred individual experience exists. My truth doesn’t have to be your truth. What’s right for you may not be right for me. What’s good for me might not be good for you. Just because you see something doesn’t mean it is and just because you don’t know it doesn’t mean it isn’t.
And then maybe, if we can meet ourselves and each other in that sweet spot in the middle and release the stranglehold on what divides, we can together, settle into a space where the union of opposition resides and ease into a future of peace, truth, freedom and love.
We are all that is, all that was and all that will ever be.
With respect for who you are, for the experiences you choose to have and for the glorious gifts you bring to this world,
I love you