The first time I was asked if I wanted to go to a yoga class my response was an emphatic NO! In my limited understanding, “those people” who practiced yoga were some strange sect who sat on the floor, meditated and chanted odd noises – something between a moo cow and dog howl. I was not interested. I was however, always physically into various sports: skiing; some running; dancing, and the embarrassing stint as an aerobics teacher. All of which I loved. Eventually, I did step onto a mat some 20 years ago. I cried at the end of my first class, silently, to myself of course. And I never looked back. None of those other activities, despite the endorphin rush and physical benefits, did for me what yoga did. So why, what was so different about yoga for me?
For me, it wasn’t just about the physical benefits found in exercise. I now know that yoga encourages us to look within. It’s our opportunity to choose an action rather than settle on default. Yoga, as with meditation, is not so much about changing ourselves or our bodies to be better, rather it’s about discovering who we already are and learning self-acceptance. This awakening is a gift. To connect to and discover you. Not the facade or labels that you may be given….female, wife, lawyer, yogi. It is not about seeking to change but seeking to know.
In a culture where we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change or to plan the future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have. To who we already are. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron explains:
“When we start to meditate…we often think that somehow we’re going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are. Meditation (and yoga) practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”
This concept of not needing to improve me, rather to learn how to be me, did not come easy or quickly. Like many I spend countless hours on my mat looking to “better” myself and my postures. Always to deleterious results reinforcing the message of “I am not good enough, I need to change.” But slowly, with consistency in practice, all of that began to shift. Acceptance is the art of compassion and self-reflection. It does not mean we remove goals from our lives but asks us to look into why we are doing what we are doing, to deal with where we are on that particular day at that particular time. It asks us to replace judgement with discernment. And finally, what am I seeking? And ask, what am I really, really…REALLY seeking?
It was that first time on my yoga mat, I cried because the door cracked open and presented this magical gift of self-discovery, of acceptance, and unconditional love. For me, that’s why yoga!
Express more fully that which we already are. Our spiritual journey of enlightenment.