To help you take your yoga practice off the mat and into the world
Nothing in life has happened to you. It’s happened for you. Every disappointment; every wrong; every closed door has helped make you into who you are. -Joel Olsteen
Transitioning from the victim to the victor mindset can be challenging. Often we don’t even realize that we are playing the role of the victim – or just how disempowering it can be. We want to gnash our teeth and shout from the rooftops when we are wronged or when things don’t go according to our plans and expectations. And in some ways, this is important. It’s important to feel our feelings, to be honest about our experience, to acknowledge our pain, and to tell our story. But these things can easily turn into rumination – to becoming the story of our suffering rather than holding space for it to pass through, learning, and moving on. When we can learn to take a moment – a pause – to step back and look at our problems from a different or higher perspective and begin to notice how we have learned, grown, or improved as a result of these challenges we begin to empower ourselves. Re-framing life challenges to assess how they can help us in becoming more of what we’re meant to be enables us to take ownership of our experience and become the author of our life story, ultimately propelling us more toward the life we want to live. Practicing gratitude for the growth opportunities that hard times provide allows us to remain steady in life’s storms.
When you’re centered, your emotions are not hijacking you. – Ray Dailo
One thing that surprises many new yogis, including myself, is the incredible range of emotion experienced just sitting. At first glance yoga seems like a fun or quirky way to get fit and flexible – and it is, but we often don’t realize that the muscle getting the most fit and flexible is the mind. When we insist that the body remain in a position we are able to notice all of the other pieces moving in the background. We might feel rage, irritation, impatience, sadness – any number of emotions and sensations coming up when we allow the body to settle and notice what is going on underneath. Practicing this noticing on the mat can translate into a substantial increase of awareness off the mat. When we become familiar with what it’s like to be in our bodies – noticing changes of breath and sensation – we more easily notice changes as they occur. An increase in breath rate or heart rate, feeling our cheeks heat or back stiffen at the tone or phrasing of a comment a colleague makes, noticing a pit in our stomach as our partner or friend broaches a difficult topic. Bringing awareness to the clues bodily sensations provide us gives us a heads up on our emotional state and reaction, allowing us the space to notice and choose a response. When we’re able to notice how we are feeling and how our body and mind is reacting to a situation we are no longer a slave to those reactions – we have the power to acknowledge the default and choose a response or action that serves our best interests.
If the path you walk down isn’t bringing you joy then turn around. Find one that will. -Anonymous
In the physical practice of yoga we talk a lot about what’s available – i.e. if crossing your legs isn’t available feel free to sit up on a blanket or in a chair – we are – each and every one of us – a unique combination of mind, body, and spirit parts. What is easy for me may not be easy for you. What is easy for me today may be impossible for me tomorrow. As we become familiar with yoga on our mats and learn to listen to our minds and body about what is easeful, what is helpful, what is a good fit – we can learn to apply these concepts to the rest of our life in building an experience of living that brings forth our best and truest selves. We are each born with a note inside of us that we are meant to sing – that the world needs us to sing. One of the surest ways to uncover this internal guide is by listening to what creates space and joy within the mind and body – learn what helps you, and only you, expand – feel expansive. The answer won’t be the same for me as it is for you – and the path to your personal best isn’t something that anyone else (no matter how well-meaning) can discover for you. You must walk it yourself.
Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was. – Richard L. Evans
There is no finish line. There is not point at which you arrive – either in your yoga practice or in your life off the mat. At each peak you reach there will be a new horizon visible – a new height that you become aware of; another level to which you can ascend. In this way, life is the most generous adventure – we can never know what will unfold as we progress but we can be sure that it will never stop unfolding. Beginning new things can be daunting – we look far off into the horizon and imagine what success looks like – and we think “it’s so big, so far away, I am so low down here” and often what we don’t realize is that what seems like such a huge leap away from us is actually a much smaller stepping stone in the journey to reach our full potential. We are capable of so much more than we realize. So we show up and we do our best – whatever that looks like in each moment. And the truth is: there’s no stopping us; there’s nothing to fear. Just as water will eventually wear away rock just by showing up and passing by, so too will we reach the next level just by showing up – relentlessly placing one foot in front of the other.
Remember that people can only respond to you from their own understanding of reality. – Anonymous
Some of the best – and most difficult to implement – advice I’ve ever received was “don’t take it personally.” It can be really difficult to remember that people’s behavior, words, and responses don’t belong to us. We each show up to and interact with the world around us according to what we believe to be reality. And it’s not the same for everyone – or even any two people at once. We may believe the world to be cut-throat and believe that it’s “every man for himself.” Or we might believe that the world or universe is a caring place in which we will always be cared for – whether by a particular deity, general human goodness, or another spiritual facet. One of the trickiest concepts to grapple with is the idea that neither of those beliefs about reality is objective truth – it’s only the filter that we have adopted for our perception based on our experiences and the beliefs of those around us. Realizing that this is a thought process that we have control over can be incredibly liberating – taking ownership of our perspective and making conscious choices to relate to the world around us in a more positive way (by assuming positive intent, accepting that we are worth of love, etc.) puts us in a position to allow ourselves to change the story of our lives and experiences. As we navigate this process we can begin to become more aware of the differences between our reality and those around us – and, in this way, learn to speak to those who can hear us. When we share a message of love and interconnection with an individual who has chosen a reality in which it’s necessary to be cut-throat and “look out for number one” or be always taken advantage of, it makes sense that this individual won’t be able to receive that message: it doesn’t match with their experience of reality. Remember that you are responsible for showing up and living your life – but you don’t own anyone’s response to that. There will always be people who don’t understand you, don’t like you, or even think you’re crazy: that’s okay. Talk to the people who can hear you.