February 1, 2013

What Does it Mean to Be Victorious?

What does it mean to be victorious? Is it the result of a conquest or is it a state of being?

Earlier today, after my practice, I started to think what I would write about today. As often happens, the rest of what the day brought changed the direction of my writing. Our practice doesn’t end when the asana is over. Inspiration isn’t a pebble we hold in our hands; it’s a river we stand in, and it never stands still.

One of the simple, yet powerful, things I love about Ashtanga yoga is the focus on ujjayi breathing. While physically the breath creates inner heat and preserves prana, or life force energy, I find this type of breathing to be emotionally and spiritually nourishing as well. When we push more deeply into a particular posture, sometimes our ujjayi breathing may be more intense, kick up the heat, feed the fire inside.

This word, ujjayi, means “upward towards victory.”

Up until a few hours ago, I was musing about this idea of victory in a mostly abstract way. Are our victories events and moments in time? Or do we strive to be in that state: always moving towards victory? Is it something we can do and then it’s over, or do we wish to become victorious as an integral part of our being?

Then, I received a call saying that my brother, whom I love very much, was in the hospital. Then more calls and texts and calls and waiting. And waiting. And this idea of feeling victorious, over anything, feels incredibly far away—an impossibility. I feel small and helpless, quite the opposite of ujjayi.

I got out of my head and onto my mat a little bit more since there wasn’t much else I could do. I played with my kids and put them to bed. Cleaned. Edited. Tried to quiet my mind. Tried to feel a little less helpless and a little more victorious.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t one event, action or outcome that makes us victorious.

Victorious is a constant state of being; it’s the direction we are taking.

When I choose to direct my life, my actions, my thoughts in a path that flows upward, that moves to conquer, I become victorious.

When I choose to tame my mind, to master my emotions rather than being ruled by them, I become victorious.

When, with each breath, I choose to live my life authentically, with love as a greater motivation than fear for my choices, I become victorious.

I could sum up more about the month of writing about my practice daily. I could talk about other asana and practice specific tips. I could tell you funny stories about things that happened in my practice throughout the month that I haven’t included yet.

But none of that really matters much.

We each have one short, precious human life. We talk about this over and over until it becomes a cliche, but like many cliches, it starts from something true. We don’t have a next time to get it right. This is not a rehearsal. There’s no do-over to say what you really meant or be who you want to be. If we are to be victorious, it’s a direction we must daily choose.

May you sit with your breath and savor it, letting it warm and fill you up. May you find the path—your own path—that leads upward with love, to conquer all obstacles within and without.

May you always be victorious.





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