I love yoga. Lately I have been practicing my ashtanga yoga again for an hour to an hour and thirty minutes every morning after breakfast, something which I have not done all summer long.
Yoga to me is not about the stretching and the exercise (although that is very healthy and beneficial and a huge part of yoga). Yoga to me is about finding my center and getting in touch with my true self. Yoga helps me to go inside, separate myself from my thoughts and my outer reality, find out what is really going on, and to let go of all else that is swirling around me, stealing away from inner calm and peace.
All of the worry, confusion, fear, doubt and anxiety melt away as I focus on the breathing and letting go of each thought that may arise, watching them each come and go, realizing their impermanence. Watching my thoughts in this way helps me to also see just how much I am (and we all are) controlled by them throughout everyday life. When we are going through the motions of life, it is rare that we really ever notice what is going on in our minds and how our thoughts are directing our feelings and our behaviors. We don’t often stop to ask ourselves, who am I and why do I do what I do?
My yoga practice is not ideal, peaceful and all butterflies and rainbows, but I actually like it better that way. When I do yoga in the morning, the kids are making noises, sometimes there is crying, or someone is grabbing at me or hugging me, messes are being made all around me and it is stressful! My mind starts out going and thinking and planning the day or thinking about what I am going to make for lunch or what we are going to do for our homeschool day. Maybe I am not feeling well and my focus is on the discomfort that I am feeling in my body. All the while, I just keep on breathing and letting it all go and by about 30 minutes in there is calm and inner stillness. There is the breath and awareness of something more. The funny thing is that the kids calm down too. They become quieter and find a slow, relaxing activity to do, like read, do puzzles or draw pictures. The whole home is full of peace.
I truly believe that yoga does not stop on the mat. Living life and raising children is a big part of yoga. My ashtanga yoga practice helps me further to be more patient, flexible, loving and understanding. To think before I speak and to be mindful of my actions in front of my children too. Yoga helps me to also see deeply into their being and to see others as a part of the divine. It helps me to see into the impermanence of things and to not get so attached to outcomes or thoughts or feelings and makes it easier to let go and surrender to whatever is. My ashtanga yoga practice helps me to live yoga.
When I am feeling frustrated and I want to get angry or upset. When I feel stretched in a spiritual lesson. When a wave of fear arises. When my thoughts are filled with anxiety or worry. There is the breath. There is that awareness. There is that something more.
After I wrote this post a few days ago following my morning practice, I thought that if I would have read that before I had ever done yoga, there is no way that I would get any of that. It would have sounded wacko. True-self… awareness… surrender… separating yourself from your thoughts? What is this girl talking about? People who do yoga are weird and crazy!
My husband was the one who used to always practice ashtanga yoga and I thought he was crazy. Besides, who wants to bother breathing and stretching? Why not do a real workout and get somewhere? Why waste the time doing yoga and being so weird?
Seeing how crazy I was always in a swirl of thoughts and wrapped up in anxiety and then seeing how calm, loving and present my husband always was to me, I decided to exchange my intense cardio workouts for the slow flow of yoga.
Since I finally gave yoga a chance four years ago, I get it. I really get it. Yoga is not a physical exercise. It is a spiritual practice that we can carry on in our everyday lives. It stretches us and takes us on a journey deep within. It awakens us to the self, to that deep inner being that exists at the core of us all. It is union. My yoga practice helps me to remember that and to feel in awe of that awesome truth.
That’s what yoga is to me. I don’t know if anyone else out there “gets it” but I am glad that I now do and I am going to post this. I couldn’t imagine my life without yoga.
(Serafina joining me in Savasana for a big hug. How I end each morning practice and really begin my day). 🙂