I often hear people – friends, family, colleagues, and students – say how they wish they could do or have something in their life in a dreamy way, as if a magic genie will come at any moment and grant them their wish. These are not the material things of the world they are wishing for – it’s not a hot car, or a big house, or some grand vacation. It’s the stuff of life we all want: peace, success, and great relationships. If only we could snap our fingers and bring these things into our life without another thought. But most things in life that are worth having take a certain kind of focus and energy in order to achieve them. They do not have a price tag and are not easily cultivated. That’s what makes them desirable.
“I want to have more peace in my life and less anxiety.”
“Okay, well, have you tried meditating for a few minutes each day?”
A wrinkled nose, a shake of the head is the reply, as if, I suggested they eat liver or clean up poop. And I smile, suggest they try it, but know that most people won’t. Meditation is not the easiest activity, but I do believe it is one of the most healing things we can do.
Sitting in silence heals in ways you can’t even imagine. The entire point of yoga asana practice in the beginning was to be able to sit in meditation longer. Yoga postures did not replace meditation- it made it easier to sit in one spot for an hour, two hours, or maybe a day. 2,000 years ago they weren’t too concerned about burning calories or getting a yoga body. It was about connection to the Divine within and around us and it still can be if you allow it.
Start slow. Sit for 5 minutes a day for a week. Then see if you can sit for 10 minutes the following week. You wouldn’t go out and run a half marathon if you were not a runner. You would start with a single mile to get started or maybe a jog around the block. It’s the same thing. I try and sit for at least 15 minutes a day and feel blessed if I have a little more time in the schedule to sit longer. And for those of you saying you don’t have 15 minutes, I get it, though if you truly want more peace and less anxiety in your life you will find the time.
“I want to be able to get into Full Camel Pose.”
For some reason I get this more than you would think. My answer to this is, “Why?”
If the student answers, “I want to get deeper into my postures and reveal more about what is achievable within my practice and in my life,” then I am psyched. Usually, I will still urge them to simply keep coming to class and work on each posture with their best intention and things will open and evolve as they should.
The response I usually get though is, “I don’t know, it looks cool,” or that the student doesn’t feel anything in regular old Camel Pose. If this is the case, I take them back to the beginning, give them some pointers to correct their Camel Pose and tell them to work on that for awhile.
Working on advanced postures takes work and dedication to your practice, the goal should never be so that you have something cool to post to Instagram or that you’re planning on showing off your Full Camel while the rest of the class is in Camel. That’s not the point of a yoga practice. If you really want something, you have to do the work. You have to come to the studio, or roll out the mat at home, day after day. You cannot expect to try advanced asana if you show up to your practice twice a month. If twice a month is all you have, don’t worry, enjoy the time you get to practice, but you cannot expect the body to open up to something that it has not been training to do.
“I want to be less stressed, less lonely, have more time on my hands, and have great relationships.”
“Maybe you need to say ‘no’ more, so that you can say yes to what you really want.”
Not the answer they want most of the time. Saying no to others is hard work for some people. It’s difficult for me at times. We think that if we say no that we will disappoint others and be labeled as a bad person. What I have found is that when I say no to spending time with people that stress me out, or cause drama, or jobs that don’t excite me, new opportunities rise up at every turn. Saying no is a way of clearing space for the time in your life. Time is a precious commodity. What you say yes to should include valuable activities and friends. What you say yes to is a reflection of what you deem most important in life. Make sure you are saying yes to the right people and the right situations, so that when you look back on your life you don’t have to worry if you did it right. You know it was one glorious ride from start to finish.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Albert Einstein
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