Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is your real Yoga...

Brenda over at Grounding Thru the Sit Bones posted this inspiring post. In it, she says:

"Your real Yoga is how you live your life."

YES!! This is such a succinct reminder of the PURPOSE of it all - Yoga is not teaching us how to bend, stretch, or stand on our heads. Yoga is teaching us how to LIVE.

One of my TT teachers said these words (more or less) that I will never forget: "My mat is like my battlefield, where I prepare myself for the world. Because if I can come to my mat every day and do battle with myself, with my body and my ego, if I can do that and still keep a steady breath, what in the world can I not do?"

Your real Yoga is in the real world. None of the ancient texts talk about asana (not that it isn't fabulous!), they talk about living life - mindfully, ethically, patiently, compassionately.

I am always trying to find ways of throwing this idea into my classes, to remind my students that it's not about the poses, or whether your nose touches your knees, or what the person on the next mat is doing! It's the way we deal with everyday situations - traffic jams, noisy kids, spilled coffee, cranky spouses, aging parents, power-outages, that makes our Yoga.

Even on the mat, the real Yoga is how we deal with what comes up - our emotions, frustrations, and challenges as we practice. At some point, we ALL experience feelings of insecurity (OMG I can't do that pose but so and so can), feelings of superiority (OMG, I am so better at this pose than so and so is), feelings of frustration, anxiety, inadequacy, strength, weakness, tears and laughter as we peel back our layers and practice the humbling discipline of asana. As Eco Yogini recently blogged in this post, these feelings can leave us drained and "unyogic" if we let them run away with us. But we have to remember to treat ourselves with the same loving kindness as we treat others around us! To acknowledge our feelings, but not let them take control of us! To, as my teacher said, confront ourselves, and then come back to the breath.

Meditation (my 'challenge' for this year - so far not going so well I'm afraid - but it will get better!!) is the same. It's not about whether you can sit still, or for how long. It's not about having a "perfect", empty, calm mind. If you can sit through a meditation session and still show patience and loving-kindness to that butterfly brain... That is Yoga.



  1. As my very first teacher said:-

    "Yoga isn't about standing on your head, it's about standing on your own two feet."

  2. This is lovely. Isn't it such a beautiful practice? We learn yoga so we can become what yoga teaches us . . . to be present with it all. Thank you so much!

  3. so true- I do also love your teacher's quote- coming to our mats to do battle with ourselves and prepare for the world.

    this weekend was a lesson along my path that's for sure. Also- most definitely I am a vatta with some pitta thrown in... and i'm pretty sure heated yoga isn't really recommended. Thank you for your kind words of wisdom and support :)

  4. Oh the butterfly brain...exactly! I'm flattered I inspired such a thoughtful post. Maybe it's good we all have so much trouble with meditation--we really have to work. By now, most asana comes pretty easily (arm balances, notwithstanding), so something really challenging is a good eye-opener. Hopefully we'll all have it down by 2011!

  5. Rachel - I love that quote, thanks for sharing!

    Heather - Yes, well put. We are learning to BE Yoga... learning to Be.

    Eco Yogini - Courage girl!! Every lesson we learn, we learn for a reason, every challenge in our path is there to take us beyond our present self.

    Brenda - I never could get down with the "monkey" brain image - since I don't really like monkeys! (Although perhaps that makes it all the more appropriate - in fact a monkey woke me up this morning by running around on my roof...). So I picked a butterfly instead. There's a nice meditation where you can visualise the butterfly flying around inside your head and then bring it to stillness, observing the details of its wings... Very peaceful. :)

  6. I love that quote, thanks for sharing!