Monday, October 5, 2015

Lessons for the Modern Yogi

 It turns out that knowing oneself is infinitely harder when deadlines, bills and relationship-upkeep loom on the horizon. My passion and my patience undergo yet another reconstruction and instead of existing in the moment, I find the frequent desire to escape my life altogether. Why am I still here? I have learned to lean into my discomfort.

In yoga, this is the moment we all know well - the one that has us concentrating so hard that our muscles, twitching and begging for rest, are drowned out only by the realization that sweat is beginning to sting our eyes. And, yet, we stay.

Why do we dutifully follow the instructor's request to squat a little lower, bend a little deeper and breathe fully into the pain? Because we can. Because through our practice we realize that most discomfort is within our bounds to endure. It improves us. We already have the tools within, we just need to practice using them.

What are these tools? Quite simply, breath and patience.

We tap into concentration to find a focus and endure the discomfort. We know that digging deeper is a choice more than an ability, so we make the choice to stay put. Even when it means stepping out, losing balance or needing ample time to recover from a difficult pose, having faith that we can succeed pushes open the door to success.

This is the whole point of yoga, really: proving that limits only exist in one's mind (and that our bodies are fully capable of carrying us through them). This is the pay-off of breathing through our absolute certainty of failure: we succeed, even when we fail.

And how does this apply to real life?

This is the difficult part. It depends on our willingness to fail outside of class, away from a soft mat and an instructor who encourages us to fall (and fall often). It depends on vulnerability. Leaning into discomfort is a terrifying choice when applied to one's life, our instinct is to escape. Like yoga, however, we must accept this feeling and breathe through it. We must allow it to pass. It takes time and practice, but it's worth it. It strengthens tenacity, both mentally and physically. It encourages the challenge of self-improvement (and leaning into the immense discomfort we find there). With each victory, each new day, we can lean a little deeper.

Along your path, remember to lean in. It will get better, if only because you are getting stronger.