Yoga has changed my life. More accurately, I feel like it gave me my life because it gave (and continues to give) me myself. Through the shifting sands of motherhood, it has remained a faithful anchor.
Since attending my first yoga class in 2001, yoga offered me something my that both my body and spirit craved. Though my practice remained on and off for ten or so years before I became serious about making it a daily habit, I attribute the principles and tools of yoga with healing and transforming my relationship with my body, giving me mastery over my mind I didn’t know was possible, drawing me deeper into relationship with myself and sparking in me a romance with meditation.
Now, fourteen years after my first yoga class, I am enrolled in a training course to become a certified yoga instructor. The more I study, the more awe struck I am at the never-ending-ness of the learning process. Suddenly I feel like I need multiple lifetimes (ha.)
The word yoga means “to come together”, to unite mind and body. The breath is the most expedient and powerful way to draw into unison the wayward meanderings of our thoughts with the sensations of our physical bodies. Another interpretation of the word yoga is to “be one with the divine.” In yoga, we honor the divine nature that is already present within each one of us, that is higher than us and that connects us all. You can call it God or Shakti or Spirit or whatever you like. The postures of yoga are just one manifestation of the practice of yoga, which is truly a path of self-discovery. It is attentiveness to our actions and their effect on the world. Therefore anything we do with mindfulness can be yoga. When we practice non-violence in our speech and actions we practice yoga. When we practice truthfulness with ourselves and others, when we find contentment with what we have instead of looking at what others have, when we practice moderation and strive for balance in our lifestyle, in our effort, diet or relationships – this is yoga also. Yoga is not something you only do on a mat or in a class or in downward facing dog. Any time we release attachment and settle into what is this very moment is the essence of yoga.
My daily practice looks different every day. Every day I strive to find time to sit in meditation and most days I find at least a few postures to help me begin or close the day, but there are days when neither of those two things happen. Luckily, the opportunities to practice yoga throughout my day are endless.
It is as simple as 1, 2, 3.
No matter who you are, you can make this your daily practice. It can be done anywhere, at any time. Here it is: pause in whatever you are doing and take 3 deep mindful breaths.
The first breath is to remind yourself that you are here and now.
The second breath is to wake up every cell of your body.
With the third breath, extend compassion toward yourself.
Practicing self-compassion even for one moment is a powerful practice. Don’t wait until you think you’ve earned it. You can’t afford that kind of time.
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. If you can fully engage in life with all of your senses for just even one moment, you are practicing mindful awareness, you are really present, you are really alive. Sister Simone Campbell, laywer, lobbysist, author, poet and Zen practitioner says her most important prayer is , “Please God, wake me up.”
We wander through the world, leaving behind a footprint here, a whispered prayer, a fingerprint or an indentation there, an imprint where we sat with a friend for awhile, a reverberation, a note. Those relics of our presence, some dissolving instantaneously, others becoming fossilized in time –
it is not entirely our business what it is all for.
It is just for us to being paying attention.
So I too say, “Wake me up! Don’t let my mind get in the way of the holy work I have to do today. The work of living (wholly.)”
Amen. Namaste. Aho.