Many of us would be inclined to attend a yoga class several days a week if we had nothing but free time on our hands.
The reality of “real life” that we are immersed in versus the “fairy tale” version where we can choose at any time what we wish to do is somewhat restrictive.
So for many of us, squeezing in a yoga class after work one day a week and/or once on the weekend seems like a valiant effort to do that which we know is good for our us.
We know it’s good for us because we generally feel better upon leaving the class than upon arriving.
If most people are like me, it seemed most of the reward lay in the physical realm, at least for the first several years of intermittent practice. My body felt more balanced and I liked that I could see the tangible evidence of change (more open postures, easier to sustain and better balance) even if it was slow.
I came from a highly physical background already (i.e. years of weight training and years of practicing sports injuries physiotherapy), so yoga provided me with a nice, new balanced approach to my physical training.
I don’t know exactly when the deeper realization of how yoga was affecting my mind and my ability to find greater mental stability, finally reached that “eureka” moment.
That is when I stepped up the practice and made it my own personal practice.
The realization that yoga, through its breath work and other meditative aspects, offered me far more than a mere physical practice, is what really permitted my eyes to open wide into myself. The irony of that introspective change is that it led to a more positive overall perspective that permeated everything; and became what I now see as a metaphor for life in general, i.e. the “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
Once your mind recognizes that it has the power to create whatever it is you want out of life, it becomes almost impossible not to desire to harness that power.
Sure, there’s the desire and there’s the work and they are two separate things, but it all starts from having the awareness and the desire.
Then of course, the more you heighten this awareness, the more your antennae are sensitized in a good way to the never ending opportunities that are always in front of you, but you just didn’t see before.
You become less inclined to think that if only others would change, then your life could be so much improved.
In other words, part of the work is continually coming back to the awareness of perception as a choice we make. Instead of choosing to rely on changes of external conditions (i.e. the way other people behave toward us, better financial conditions, better health, etc. or those things which we have little to no control over), we begin to assert control over our internal landscape.
Suddenly, we find that yoga is better suited to furthering our evolution when treated as an everyday practice; really a moment-to-moment practice.
At this point, I do have to come forth with a disclaimer.
Even within the realization of entering into the expanded awareness of being a full time yogi, even while remaining vigilant to the tradition of mindfulness, i.e. sustained self-awareness; there continues to be the pull of the underlying default pathways of our old brain function.
These neural pathways are firmly established long before the circuitry of a new path emerged. These pathways are able to get kicked into high gear in a split second when stress comes our way since in fact, these are the reactive pathways of our autonomic nervous system that have ensured our survival as a species, also known as “fight or flight” responses.
They don’t disappear. We don’t even want them to disappear.
We may at any time need to rely on this primitive adaptation to permit us to flee from the path of an oncoming vehicle or rescue someone from a burning building. We simply don’t want these pathways activated every time we perceive ourselves as being threatened.
Our brain’s development at this point in our evolution, fails to recognize the difference between real and perceived threats, and thus we react the same regardless of which type of threat is activating.
Today’s persistent threats encompass being at the mercy of endless and often mistaken narratives in our minds, resulting from old stories replaying like tapes on a replay loop (i.e. past history) and media bombardment based in consumerism (technology pervading our minds 24/7), telling us we’re not good enough exactly as we are.
This is the existential threat that prevails upon most of us much of the time as we go about living our busy lives today.
Yet it is through the magic of coming in to touch with the stillness of the mind, that place that lies beneath the thoughts and narratives we are conditioned to believe, where we know unquestionably we are good enough exactly as we are; that we start to remember who we truly are.
Then it’s simply a question of coming home to that place that exists inside of us, knowing how to access it, getting there as regularly as possible to keep ourselves remembering the truth of who we are.
For many of us, the practice of watching our breath is that first step in slowing us down to becoming present to who we already are, waiting there quietly, within the stillness.
Gradually it becomes easier to dispel all the invalidating mental gymnastics we are subjected to in our disconnected everyday lives.
The notion that we are not important enough in our own right to give ourselves the right to return to this state of peace and serenity. For it is that state of ease and contentment that awaits us and is always there, underneath all the layers that life has so lavishly bestowed upon us.
Rhonda Travis lives out her daily yoga practice (i.e. life) in Toronto, Canada. As the mother of three grown children, she has been both student and teacher to an endless series of transformative experiences. The belief that learning can only be integrated by viewing these central relationships through the mirror of one’s own soul is the impetus for ongoing self-reflection. Practicing for over a decade as a sport injuries physiotherapist eventually morphed into becoming a certified personal trainer with a special interest in teaching body awareness as a tool to improve self-empowerment. A growing personal practice of yoga eventually led to certification as yoga teacher last year. An expanding interest and awareness of our psycho/physiological inter-connection, studying yoga philosophy and Yin Yoga, Rhonda is presently engaged in earning her professional status as Yoga Therapist. Recently, writing has opened up a new frontier from which Rhonda endeavors to share her insights in hope of living her dharma.
Two favorite mottoes that encapsulate Rhonda’s life view are…
“To teach is to be a student and to truly learn one must teach.”
“To save a single soul is to save an entire world.”
Ed: Elysha Anderson