My practice of yoga postures or asanas is the practice of creating space in my body so that when I leave my yoga mat, that space remains. Emotions and thoughts are free to enter and flow through my mind without attachment.
Asana is one part of my yoga practice. Sometimes my asana practice is difficult and messy. Sometimes I fall, and I get up again. I place my body in situations with mindful intention. For me, this translates off the mat into finding a bit more ease along life’s journey.
Asana practice is remembering that all things are impermanent. The discomfort or even fear in a pose is temporary, as is this precious human life.
Asana practice is a moving meditation for me. When I am linking breath with movement, the only thing I can do is be present.
Asana practice is a tool and a metaphor for mindful living.
Set and an intention that is pure. Work mindfully toward the fulfillment of that intention. You will struggle. You may fall. You will get back up. You may lose your breath, and you will always come back to it. You will create the space to accept these truths because both the physical body and the mind are opened and tension is released. Judgement is abandoned and the present truth is accepted.
When practiced with pure intention in mind, asana practice creates positive energy and merit that we can then dedicate to other sentient beings in their struggle to find happiness.
Asana may be difficult, and for good reason. The difficulty of a balance like Warrior 3 is nothing compared to the intricacies of human relationships. It is what I learn on my mat with dedicated practice that guides me and helps me face truths about myself, others, and the world we live in. In facing these truths, I am always practicing yoga.
A flag doesn’t hold on to the wind, yet it couldn’t be more immersed in it. Our job is not to stop or gather the life of feeling but to let it keep moving through us, the way a flag opens itself to the wind.
-Mark Nepo from The One Live We’re Given
Chilly? Of course.
Dark? Yup. Daylight Saving Time in New England is just about over.
However, it was warm inside the studio where my high school students and I have been practicing yoga together for the past 3 weeks. That was a good part. The space glowed with candlelight as we focused on finding stillness and balance and breath moving through the postures. We learned and we laughed, but that’s not the best part.
The best part for me came after we turned the lights on. We were practicing headstands. Music, laughter, and a few happy shrieks filled the air. The best part came when through the noise, I clearly heard one student’s voice. It was the voice of a 17 year old girl I have been practicing with since before I was a teacher myself. The walls were lined with kids finding the crowns of their heads and their cores, and I was busy turning someone upside down. I heard her as she too was teaching. She was confidently instructing her friend on how to get into the headstand.
It’s hard to explain the feeling I had. It was pride and happiness and excitement and accomplishment all bottled into one. I thought…this is what it’s all about. Teaching these young people, so that they will learn and want to teach each other.
That was the best part.
Take this example, and know that this is why I love yoga. When there is darkness and uncertainty in this life, we practice finding stillness, balance, and focus to guide us. We do this so that when the light does shine, as it always will, we are able to help others as they too journey along life’s path. We help each other out. We practice kindness. We know what to do. We know how, because we have been there.
Oh yeah, you bet I let her know how great she is- that 17 year old young woman. Of course it was through text, because that’s how kids communicate today. The next time I see her, she will hear it from my lips- accompanied by a hug of course, because that is also what it’s all about. She does not just need to read it. She needs to hear it, and she really needs to feel it.
After that, she may just believe it is true.