I’ve said many things to many people in many classes over the last few days, not knowing what, if anything resonates with those around me. I did say something recently that continues to stay with me. It had something to do with “noticing how your yoga practice mirrors life”. It is important to go beyond the generalities of theory, and realize that everything starts with that individual level of awareness.  Coupled with intention, it is the willingness to act in accordance with that very awareness that makes life, and yoga,  more interesting, difficult, loving, complicated, fun, fulfilling, and so on.
Imagine that the practice is like a jewel, all sparkling and appealing.  In this context, each facet of the jewel not only represents a lesson that could be incorporated into daily living, but it also acts as a mirror, prompting those who choose to look closely enough to notice, examine, and/or question how they see themselves.  Socrates urged, “Know thyself!  The unexamined Life is not worth living.”   

In yoga, there is an endless list of ways, both positive and negative, that we may become distracted by something other than that for which we came, something off-purpose… as in life.  Many of us come to yoga, purposefully putting ourselves in challenging, uncomfortable, or difficult situations for the sole purpose of realizing our own ability to see past the shit that rises up and catch a glimpse of who we really are underneath it all.  When we encounter a difficult or challenging situation, in life as well as yoga, one of the most pertinent questions we can ask ourselves is: “How deep am I willing to go to realize the truth of this situation?”.  This is one of my favorite parts of the practice – that moment whereas I realize that I’m being slapped in the face by ego.  It is an opportunity to “go deeper” or “let go”, or both.  I think. 

I smirk.

The First Noble Truth of Buddhism says that: Life is suffering.  Conceptually, I prefer: mental attachment to anything that is impermanent creates suffering.  Sounds a little less off-putting.  And, by the way, all things are impermanent.  This is easily exemplified on the mat.  Even during the course of one class, thoughts come and go; emotions may rise and fall; and our expressions of asanas change.  When we over-identify with thoughts, moods, or physical postures, there’s an open door for suffering to enter and begin the takeover. 

“Say what?  Class is packed, there’s a sub, AND there’s no music!!!?”     

In life, we all have to deal with the steady stream of thoughts broadcasting in our heads, deciding, deciphering, judging, critiquing.  For most of us, most of the time, when the reality of the outside world does not coincide with our version of how things should be, well, there’s that open door again.  It’s not necessarily a huge problem, but when left unchecked, what tends to happen is a subtle reinforcement of a sense of righteousness of ego.  We start to identify more and more with what goes on in our head, instead of what’s in our heart. 

It is one thing for us to realize that we tend to cling onto what we like and avoid what we don’t like. It is entirely another to realize that at the foundation of our likes and dislikes, as well as our tendency towards clinging and avoidance, there is a story; a set of thoughts that we believe in so strongly that it almost never comes into question. 

So here it is. It doesn’t matter which lesson you pick, or parallels you seek.  It doesn’t matter as much how you see the world, as opposed to how you see yourself in the world.  It doesn’t matter which styles of yoga, yoga teachers, or postures you think you love, or which ones you think you hate.    Svadhyaya, the Niyama of self-inquiry is a crucial part of living a yoga lifestyle.  Be willing to look within.  Embrace introspection.  Make a sincere attempt to know yourself on a deeper level, and notice how your life and yoga practice change.  More importantly, notice how you begin to see yourself – as a beautiful, sparkling jewel.

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