How my Yoga practice became a metaphor for my life
Breathe and Relax
I am a relative newcomer to Yoga, the ancient practice of holding poses with controlled breathing. In fact, I only recently am learning how much more beneficial Yoga can be to my life by practicing the way it is intended to be practiced.
Recently, while in the midst of my daily, 50 minute practice it occurred to me how many of the instructions for the class given by the leader are like metaphor's for how to live life!
I am no expert on Yoga, but I have been an avid exerciser for most of my life. It is only in the past few years that I've really embraced Yoga over my former choices of high impact, high aerobic exercise. I had eschewed doing Yoga more primarily because I didn't think it would benefit me as much as some of my former types of exercise.
Boy, was I wrong! I want to share the many examples of how the practice of Yoga can be a guide to a healthy life practice.
It's not about how loose you are or how strong but about being alive
I use a DVD of an Ashtanga (Power) Yoga instructor and over the past few years I have pretty much memorized his spiel. One of the comments he makes is "Yoga is not about how loose or strong you are; it's about being alive and feeling something". I love this statement and I find it a perfect metaphor for life.
Life isn't about being rich, or famous or strong, but about being present and alive and participating. I think we all tend to get in our own way on the road to creating a better life. Our Ego eggs us on to push past somebody else in accomplishments, or to make more and more money for bigger and better things to own.
But, if we just let go of all the attachments and just become open vessels who breathe in life and accept the flow we can be ever so much happier. In our Western society, it has often been about "keeping up with the Jone'ses". How much nicer if we let go of needing to compete with anybody but just to be the best we can be for ourselves.
I think that we are not meant to live by our ego, but by our heart and spirit. Only then can we fully embrace the generosity of the universe in it's fullness; when we aren't attached to the outcome but just trust in the wisdom of our day to day choices in life.
Another of my favorite comments that the instructor makes is "Just be where you're at cause you are already there". I know this may sound a bit "woo woo" for some of you, but I like the simplicity in this statement. What I hear is "You are already enough; there is no need to compare to others or strive to be more; just be where you already are and breathe". What a lovely sentiment to accept that we are living the life we are meant to live and that we can just be in that space without striving for anything in particular. There is no need for competition! There is enough for each of us to live in our own best expression.
Finding your Balance
As a Health Coach, I work with people to create their best health and life balance. I am a big believer in balance in all things for best results.
One of the instructions I hear from my Yoga guru is "You can't do the pose until you find your balance". In Yoga, many things are happening all at once, as is the case of life. Rarely are we afforded a time when we can focus on just one thing, but more often than not it is a balancing act of many things going on all at once.
To be successful in holding a yoga pose, one must first focus on getting their balance and then they can work on their form in the pose. I see this is a lovely metaphor for life. Once we figure out how to balance our work and our free time, our joy and our hurt, our creativity with our industry, we can then get clearer and more successful in each pursuit.
If we try to juggle all the facets of life without first having some sort of balance, or being anchored in a solid sense of ourselves, we can't expect to be successful at any one thing, let alone all that we are working on.
But, when we take the time to think through our goals, to breathe and relax in the knowing of what it is we want to achieve we can find success and joy.
Just as trying to hold poses in yoga without balance may cause us to fall; trying to create a full life without a sense of order and balance will cause a metaphoric fall. We can't expect to be able to achieve all there is to be had in life without first building a foundation of balance.
One building block for life balance in my opinion is to simply learn to breathe. Sounds simple enough, but many of us do not breathe properly.
My Yoga Instructor teaches to do the entire class with only closed mouth breathing. I must confess that it took me probably over a year of regular, consistent practice before I could perform the entire class with only mouth breathing. In the early days I would actually pant and be just exhausted and fall far from the mark in terms of completing a pose. I also found that the class didn't leave me refreshed as much as it left me tired and enervated.
But, since learning the mouth breathing and persevering until I could master it, I've gotten a much better result from my yoga workouts. Now I feel this deep connection to my body with my mind as I go through the poses and at the end of the workout I feel as though I can cope with anything that life has to throw my way.
Tying it all together
I do not want you to come away from my article feeling that I am saying you should all go out and start a Yoga practice of your own! I have come to love my own yogic practice and feel it has served me very well.
But, I believe in individuality and know that what is a wonderful source of exercise and life balance for me, might not work for somebody else.
What I do hope you take away from this though is that life is balance. Yoga teaches balance and through my practice of Yoga I have come to a better balance in my life.
But, one can create life balance without ever doing a single Yoga pose. I just want to help people recognize the value of a life lived in balance. It has made such a big difference in my personal life to work at having a balance in the many elements of life. You can look at your life like a wheel with spokes for all the components; spiritual, physical, work, sex, food, etc. I think it is helpful to make a chart of these items and see how you are doing in each area. Are you finding that you are very balanced between work and play but maybe you don't get enough exercise? Or maybe work is controlling too much of your life, leaving an imbalance in areas of spirituality or play?
You my friend have the power to create better balance! You can learn to breathe and focus and if there is an area that is lacking you can make efforts to put more energy there.
And, should you desire a regimen that can leave you feeling alive and awakened and also benefit your body with strength and flexibility I welcome you to explore Yoga. There are many styles and it can be done by almost any person at any phase in life.
I hope that you have learned something from me about life and balance. I wish you all a happy, balanced life.