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The wisdom of yoga

Posted: October 31, 2013 4:20 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’ve learned a lot during my yoga teacher training this year. Going into my last month of the training, I realize that there is so much wisdom in the practice of yoga. Even if we are established in or have roots in another religion or spiritual practice, yoga has a lot to offer most people, because of its mindfulness aspect, even if the physical practice isn’t your thing.

The biggest nugget of wisdom that I’ve gotten out of the last eight months of training is that we are responsible for living in accordance to our own principles. These principles can be associated with a formal religion or they can be associated with something your fourth-grade teacher taught you that’s never failed you. “All true power is derived from principle” is a quote that’s been tossed around this year. We cultivate our own strength and power through adhering to what we believe is true. Our own faithfulness seems to be the only true to form of power. We can’t blame someone else for our defiance to what we believe is the right way for us and we surely can’t force others to believe our truth. All we can do is live our truth. Unfortunately, but more fortunately, none of that will look the same. The second piece of wisdom I’ve gotten from the training is that if we find ourselves in a wayward state, we can always come back to our principles or beliefs, or integrate new ones if they suit us better. Life is always throwing us curve balls, but it’s our job to stay in alignment (a big focus in the training). We have to find our own “right action,” the balance between mindfulness and effort, whether it be in a physical pose or with our principles and beliefs.

That’s not a new earth-shaking discovery. I’ve heard it before in different terms, but it’s pretty cool for a 20-something to realize and very obvious in the physical yoga practice. Everyone is in the same room on their own mat. We do the same poses, but they all look very different, depending on the physical and mental state of each person in that particular moment.

Yoga means union. Everything we do in right action is technically yoga, whether we classify it as yoga or not. Writing an article, working with a student, upholding our own beliefs or mowing the grass -- it’s all yoga if there is concentrated meditation. I started practicing more frequently when I was on the brink of driving myself nuts: I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends on top of being an already overly-anxious person. (Note, I think you are pretty awesome when you can admit that you drive your own self crazy sometimes.) Quite honestly, I had a period of information overload and I needed to check out. I was thinking too much, as I tend to do, and I just need to stop thinking. Yoga is pretty productive way of checking out, because it allows you to move from the external to the internal and there you can take the time to find a heart-felt solution to problems.

During that time, “uncertainty (was) the pathway to freedom,” as my yoga teacher likes to say, and really, all of life is uncertain. Sometimes we find ourselves off the beaten path -- the tried and true way -- unintentionally, but sometimes it’s nice to just get some perspective, if you choose to look at it that way.

“Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are. It is a matter of listening inwardly for guidance all the time, and daring enough and trusting enough to do as you are prompted to do.” –Eric Schiffman.

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