I am not the same as when I started and neither are you. You might have started yesterday, courageously unrolling your mat and stepping upon it for the first time, or 15 years ago, a seasoned veteran to the practice, and I can say the same of either one of you. You have changed. For the better? Yes. If better means taking a step towards becoming whole. If better means you are brave enough to even have the tiniest thought about loving that heart achingly beautiful pair of eyes that stare back at you from the mirror.
And every time you decide to choose You and step back on your mat to listen to your breath and enjoy the weighty feel of your body, you will be in the process of peeling back a layer of everything you aren’t to finally be at the core of everything you are. Each yogi is different and yet we all have a similar story when you start to truly listen. The details are different, but the process of unfolding is undoubtedly the same.
1st Layer – Wanting or Needing a Change You show up. For yourself. Maybe for the first time ever. You left the kids at the sitter’s or left from work a bit early or woke up an hour before dawn to make it to class. Something isn’t working – it could be a body part, or a life situation, or your mind is riddled with anxiety – but you know you have to do something different. It’s actually becoming uncomfortable to live with your “stuff” much longer and for some reason you decide yoga might be the answer. You might choose yoga because your sister’s boyfriend does and told you to give it a try. Or maybe even your doctor said it might work for you. Or maybe you simply see a sign or an online ad or a yoga blog post that speaks to you. So, you find yourself looking for a change. You find yourself standing on a yoga mat and ready to learn.
2nd Layer – Letting Go of What Holds You Back You actually like this yoga thing. You always hated working out before, but this is way different. Something else is going on when you are on the mat. You start noticing the things that are getting in your way to accomplish any given asana. You start noticing this chatty little voice that whines at you as you move through the class telling you to stop, to take the break, to give up and you start to notice this voice is not you at all. You notice there is a calmer, steadier voice beyond that whiny, chatty babble that moves you forward and tells you when you have honestly had enough and with this new connection you start to let go of the thoughts that hold you back – from your practice and from your very real life.
3rd Layer – Getting Rid of Attachments Now you are listening to this very real voice that gets stronger by the day and speaks from your heart and your gut. You are gaining intuition and a fluidity of forward motion as you move from situation to situation. You start to leave the fidgety mind behind as you no longer need to wipe at the sweat on your brow, or fiddle with the water bottle. You no longer have to blow your nose after a certain posture, or fix your hair when it moves out of place. You are no longer attached to having certain preferences, such as your favorite teacher, or having the room at the perfect temperature, or setting your mat down in a particular preferred space in the room. These are nice things, but not necessary for you to have a good, honest practice.
4th Layer – Gaining Self Respect & Confidence You are starting to walk taller. You are starting to eat better. You are starting to respect your body and everything that it does for you each day. You are also starting to leave bad relationships and situations behind as you move forward. You might even leave your job or your marriage as you realize these situations no longer serve you. You might fall more in love with your job or your spouse as you realize what blessings they have been on your life even when you were admittedly kind of a mess. Everyone’s journey is slightly different and that is what makes it great. That is what makes it wonderful.
5th Layer – Respecting Others You have respect for your Self and your journey and with that comes a level of acceptance and respect for those around you. You are less judgmental and more forgiving. You are no longer looking for others to offend you, but are acknowledging that you are surrounded by people who are simply doing the best they can with what they have and whatever perceptions they have about the world around them. Life becomes easier as you realize this. There is less drama and more time for creativity and fun.
6th Layer – Finding Stillness Your practice has taken on a new level of stillness. It is not that you are still per se, but that as you move there is an intention about how you do so. You are focused on the sound of your breath, the rhythm of your heart beat, and the flow of your body through space. You are in the moment. You are no longer urging the teacher to move ahead in your mind or wishing for the time to pass quickly. You are experiencing the yoga practice. With this you begin to truly experience your life. You are not quick to wish away an uncomfortable moment. You find space to listen to a child’s laughter or truly watch the trees and birds move outside. You notice the moon and the sunrise. You are truly tasting and enjoying your food and are grateful for the gift that it is. You are tuning into the very nature of you.
7th Layer – Opening Your Heart Your heart has been opening the entire length of this journey, but now it is wide open. You are open to the possibilities ahead within your life and know that you can weather any storm. You realize there was always enough love to go around and that the greatest gift you can give your Self is Love and the second is Compassion. You are active in the world in a positive way and spend time helping others in need. You are living life at its optimal level and the cogs of your life seem to work effortlessly as each piece falls into place. The work is not always easy, but it has become easier as you acknowledge that you too are doing your best and that, for you and for those that took the time to know you, will always be good enough.
Does this sound familiar? We are all at different spots on the path. And at times we may back track a bit. That doesn’t matter. Sometimes you back track to really understand that part of the path. What matters most is you are on the path.
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