Our moral values and compassion for others affects our lives more than we think—one of the reasons yoga is needed now more than ever.
This is why being a yogi comes with huge responsibility.
Your practice starts to refine your internal compass as you explore the world around you. This can be a blessing and a curse as you start to question everything you’ve come to know. Suddenly the difference between “right,” “wrong,” and “grey area” starts to shift every time you’re faced with a challenge. How you face these challenges as a yogi is a true test of character.
The practices of karuṇā (compassion), satya (truthfulness), and ahimsa (non-harming) suddenly become much more confronting. When we encounter tough times, practicing these values can impact our lives and the lives of those around us.
In 2012, I opened a yoga studio. This was a huge step for me especially as a 20-something with no business experience. I was excited to follow my dreams but part of me was terrified. Since then, there have been many valuable lessons I’ve learned as a yogi in business that have helped me shift my perspective.
Yoga is more than what’s on your mat.
Yoga is more than just asana!
The practice of yoga while off your mat will become more important than ever when life throws you a curve ball. There are so many times I’ve faced challenges that have placed me in “yogic tests.”
What I mean by a yogic test is a situation pushing your buttons enough that you have to question your values. The practice of the yamas and niyamas, or the ethical contracts in yoga, become real. And it gets even harder to navigate when there’s more on the line. It can be tempting to act forcefully, to bend the truth, or to ignore when you’re hurting those around you. This brings me to my story of “me vs. the tree.”
The studio is on the second floor of a building, making it harder to find. I’ve done my best with signage to help students with way-finding and to attract new clients. Next to our main sign you’ll notice a beautiful evergreen tree. The sign is visible from most directions but it’s clear there’s a big blind spot. I’ve had some students comment on this in the past after having a tough time finding us. During slower times, the thought has crossed through my mind to do away with the tree. I spoke to surrounding businesses who felt the same way and I began to fantasize about chopping it down. My thoughts told me if we could get rid of this tree, the studio would be successful while my inner yogi repeatedly told me this was wrong.
That little shining light said this tree never did anything to anyone other than offer shade, air, and beauty to everyone who encountered it. There was a day I was staring out the window watching the snow fall on its magnificent branches and finally said to myself: I no longer want to create conflict with this tree. I made peace with this decision and felt that in the long-term, the universe would reward me for this act.
In that moment I was able to put aside my suffering and look at the bigger picture. I firmly believe that acts of compassion like this have helped the studio become the successful community it is today.
You will conquer much more than you thought you ever could by sticking to your values.
In my time as a yoga studio owner I’ve done things that I never thought were possible. I have been my own electrician, clock fixer, and bird tamer. Yes, you read that right. Birds have flown into the studio before and I rocked it like Snow White.
As a yogi you’ll likely have these crazy challenges that you’re not sure how to face. But you’ll do it with ease if you stick to the lessons you’ve learned. This could be as simple as taking three deep breaths or reminding yourself what it means to practice ahimsa, the non-harming principle in yoga. Whenever you’re faced with an obstacle, ask yourself honestly how your actions affect others. Does it contribute to the good in the world or is it a self-serving act? Making decisions selflessly will also help you in the long run, similar to how my success blossomed with choices like not chopping the tree down at the studio.
Plan for the unexpected.
There will be days you’ll wonder “what is happening?!” or “this is an odd thing to deal with.” Have you ever felt like you were being tested? Just like in a yoga class, it’s important to know when to laugh things off so that you don’t take things so seriously.
Speaking of emotion—remember that day you felt like crying in child’s pose? Life is like that too. Some days you’re ready to take on the world while others it seems like staying in bed was a better idea. Part of facing challenges as a yogi is recognizing when you need to give yourself space. Compassion is one of the greatest acts you can practice and a major part of yoga.
Every time I find myself in conflict, I look to discover what the real issue is. Am I making this decision based on fear? Is it something that truly matters or is it my ego getting in the way? Am I being compassionate with myself and with others?
Challenges are a normal part of life but using yogic tools can help you navigate even the toughest situations a little more gracefully. Seek to be inspired by all of life’s lessons, even with the bumps along the way.
Author: Emily Kane
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Courtesy of Author
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