It is not surprising to hear yoga teachers espouse the benefits of the practice. Sometimes, it feels like I’m a PR machine for yoga, reporting the latest research that shows how it helps eliminate stress or reduce bad habits, or deal with anxious thinking. Or, reminding students in class that this particular pose helps with digestion or remedies low back pain. Whatever it takes to get students into their practice, I’m happy to pass along.
But my love of yoga and belief in it as a system of mind/body evolution doesn’t come from any research; instead, it comes from my first-hand experience with it. I feel like I owe a lot of my happiness and current place in life to yoga. Yoga has worked its transformational magic on me, and continues to do so. Yoga provided a means for developing insight into my habits of mind, and how those habits kept me stuck in fear. So much of my striving for success and accomplishment was simply a reflection of the fear of not being acceptable as I was, without a long list of impressive credentials to cushion my inherent flaws. Being at the top of the class, at the top of my field were just manifestations of insecurity.
Developing acceptance of yourself as you are, acceptance of others as they are, and acceptance of life as it is marks a true gift of yoga. Sure, it also makes us stronger and more flexible and more balanced, but those superficial benefits don’t have near the impact of acceptance on our overall sense of peace and contentment. Sure, it’s nice to ache less, to feel stronger and more able-bodied, but can feel sublime to simply be content with what is.
As I continue to evolve, both internally and externally, through the practice, I have made an intention of sharing this practice with others, that they may also know the peace that acceptance affords.
The tricky thing is, however, is that yoga is a practice, not simply a body of information that once you’ve been exposed to and understand manifests directly into your experience. You have to continuously use and develop the tools of awareness to cultivate insight into what is driving your thoughts, actions and words. In other words, it takes effort. It takes commitment. It takes time.
But, if you can take my word for it, effort and commitment and time that are SO worth it. I can’t imagine someone being disappointed that they decided to invest more energy in their yoga practice. How? Take more classes, is the easiest way. Start your own home practice is upping the ante, as it is making you the responsible driver of your yoga ship. Read yoga-related books and immerse your mind in the principles of the practice. Learn the yamas/niyamas (ethical guidelines on which the practice is framed) and practice them.
If you want to reap the benefits, you have to apply the effort. I hope you will consider how you might increase your investment in your sanity and well-being through this peace-giving practice.