Our yoga practice started long before we think.
It began on the day of our birth, with our first breath. When our body was exposed to the temperature of the room, the lights, the sound of mother’s voice. With time, we continuously became more aware of when something hurt and when something felt good.
We developed an understanding of how our thoughts, words and actions affected ourselves, and others. With experience, we became more mindful of all the pieces that make up daily life.
As we all continue to learn and grow with our yoga, there will be good days and bad. So life goes, no matter what hobbies or careers we choose to pursue. As natural ebbs and flows continuously present themselves, I have learned three key principles to staying grounded and focused while remaining a successful yogi.
Initially, I experienced feelings of jealousy and envy as my peers began performing more advanced postures and receiving opportunities to teach yoga. It forced me to confront my feelings of insecurity, asking myself questions such as, “Does my own self-worth lessen because of the success of another?”
I found that my discomfort came from feeling a sense of ownership and seeking attention and approval through the practice. Once I was able to identity these selfish desires and refocus on yoga in a truer sense, I was able to give credit to others and feel genuine happiness as they succeeded. I found that humility allowed me to remain unattached to the outcome.
As we gain more and more techniques and knowledge, the key is to stay humble. Avoid fueling ego, wanting or needing something from practicing or teaching. Remember that yoga is a universal language shared by all beings. Gaining knowledge of yoga does not make one superior; rather, it makes us all equal. Stay unattached to identifying with yoga and seeking ownership of something that belongs to no one.
Ways to create more humility in your life:
>> Avoid seeking recognition.
>> Give credit and praise to others.
>> Share what you know and congratulate others as they move forward and succeed.
2. Seek additional interests.
I experienced a sense of self-inflicted pressure when I first began practicing yoga. A pressure to practice and teach a lot, a self-imposed and misguided belief that more was better and made me more of a yogi.
As I began my practice of letting go of feeling attached to yoga and a sense of dependency, I began to slowly explore other hobbies with friends and family, finding peace and comfort in hiking, painting, singing and serving the local community.
When something is new and exciting, it might be tempting to identify with that new interest. Or perhaps we replace old feelings of heartache and pain with a new label. The key is to remain open. Being a “yogi” is only one percent of who we are. We are also love, light, plasma, muscles, stars and galaxies. Avoid limiting yourself to a role. You are more; you are expansive. Let that expansiveness fuel your life.
A yoga practice is our introduction to mindfulness. It is a defined time and space to pay attention to our body and breath. However, the ultimate goal is to pull this awareness into other activities. I have learned that one is not a yogi because of constantly performing postures; one becomes a yogi when they practice yoga while not performing postures.
Ways to experience yoga off the mat:
>> Volunteer in our local community.
>> Spend time in nature.
>> Sing while cleaning the house.
3. It’s not temporary.
Although I was practicing yoga in the physical sense, I would occasionally find myself speaking poorly of my peers to make myself feel better temporarily. I realized I was harming myself by trying to advance too quickly in my physical practice. I noticed a sense of addiction to exercise and postures.
This behavior created discomfort and discontent, as it was out of line with the universe’s natural rhythm of unconditional love and compassion.
Yoga in the classroom helped to create mindfulness, and I began to become more aware of the truth that there is no ultimate perfection. There is no one way it is supposed to play out. This gave me permission to let go of control. Surrendering allowed me to settle into the present moment.
There, in the present moment, we begin to learn what needs to change in our lives to align us with a sense of greater good. With this awareness, my practice no longer has a beginning or an end; it is continuous.
Yoga does not begin at the start of the drop-in class and end with the closing om. A class or book or workshop or training or recording—these simply demarcate a period of study in addition to living mindfully. They key is to implement yoga in such a way that it becomes a manageable, effortless part of our being.
Ways to integrate our yoga:
>> Do the best we can with pure intentions.
>> Surrender to the natural rhythm of the universe.
>> Smile with love and compassion.
Author: Ashley Colloton Loescher
Editor: Toby Israel