As I stepped into this tremendously hot room barefooted, I was carrying the stress and concerns of my world on my shoulders. My ministry & nonprofit initiatives were looking faint, business goals seem to have invited me into the galaxy in order for me to reach them, my finances moved out of my bank account home to reside in the accounts of bill collectors, and it seemed as if the world had slowly chewed me up, and spit me out like sunflower seeds. Life had taken me by the throat and all I can do was gasp for air. Entering into the yoga studio was an opportunity to take a break from my world.
So as we moved through our flow, heaps of sweat began to flood my mat. At one point, I started to think that I would need a mop or call the rescue guard to prevent my fellow yogi’s from drowning. Once I embraced the sweat, the intensity of the practice began to increase and I started to think that I didn’t need any more pressure. As I contemplated walking out, the words of my instructor showered over me like I was in a rain forest, “What is your practice saying to you?” At this point, I began to listen to my practice as my practice was teaching me some principles I needed to apply for the current climate I was living in.
If my practice had an audio voice, it would say:
Yoga provides a safe place to practice breathing. The practice of breathing begins before you enter into your flow. Whether you start your practice in child’s pose, or in crossed leg, or in any other soft position, this is the time for you to find your inhale & exhale. As you begin to move through your flow, sometimes the ferocity of your practice can lead you away from the sweet inhale & exhale of your breath. Once you recognize that you have lost sight of your breath, do whatever it takes for you to find it - even if it means returning back to the soft and gentle position.
Dismiss your ego
In a heated flow or in any yoga practice, the temptation is to perform and to keep up with the momentum of the class, even at the cost of ignoring what your body is trying to tell you. One thing that helps me when my ego begins to surface is to remind myself that everyone is focused on their own practice, not yours. In words, do not try to impress anyone because no one is looking at you anyway. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Yoga is a safe place to be vulnerable and care for self. Kiss your ego goodbye.
Take a break
If you begin to lose your breath, get tired, or even get frustrated, it is ok to stop for a moment and step away from the flow. The benefits of taking a break, provides an opportunity for you to find your breath, collect yourself, and listen to your practice. Taking a break is a healthy reminder that we are only human with limitations. The more we practice, take breaks when necessary, and progress in our practice, our limitation will extend beyond our imagination.
Smile & laugh
Though at times yoga can be intense, an ongoing practice will afford one the courage to smile. I remember the first time I attempted to do a crow practice, I immediately backed away because of fear. But as I continued to practice yoga and realized how safe it was to try new things, I attempted a crow pose and almost face planted. All I and my instructor could do was smile and laugh. Though yoga has moments where we find ourselves to be meditative and focused on our practice, it is ok to smile and laugh - especially when you’re about to fall from a balancing move. Find delight in yourself & the practice. Sometimes, when in hot yoga, I would think to myself, "what in the world am I doing here” (keeping it clean) which will then lead me to laugh at myself, all by myself in front of people who do not have a clue as to why I am laughing. So, smile and take yourself lightly.
When you reach the end of your practice, whether it is in your savasana resting pose or in your cross-legged meditation pose, this is the time for the ingredients of your practice to come together. This is the moment to express thanksgiving to yourself, the practice, and the community of yogi’s that are making this world, your world, our world a better place. As a community of yogi’s, this attitude of gratitude does not lay on our mats, but walks with us through sunny and rainy days. When we carry the light that is within us into the world, we demonstrate to our community an alternative perspective and approach to the various climates we are faced with daily. So be thankful for yourself, your practice, and the community of change agents.
These principles are not just for us to practice in the studio or anywhere else we practice yoga, but we called to practice being loving human beings in our world. Imagine a world where humans practice breathing, dismissing the toxic aspects of our ego, taking breaks, smiling/laughing, and having an attitude of gratitude. As Louis Armstrong once said, “What a wonderful world this will be?”
So to my fellow yogi’s, let’s talk: what are ways in which the above points can be applied to a specific situation in your life? I look forward to hearing from you, but until then,
The light in me honors and recognizes the light in you, friends.