I’ve written about a transformational experience I’ve had in yoga class before, but I think the real change comes with adopting the yoga approach to life.
What is the yoga approach to life? Well, firstly, it’s not like a thing in the official sense, unless it is a thing and I don’t know about it. What it is though is a way you are supposed to approach your yoga practice. And I’ve found that approaching life the way I approach my practice can make an immense amount of difference.
The Yoga Approach
In yoga, you are encouraged to do what your body needs, not what you think your body should be capable of. It’s very easy to think “I did this thing last week, so I should be able to do it for twice as long this week.” That’s terrible thinking because our bodies don’t conform to logical progressions.
For me, there are days when my arms feel so strong that I can hold a plank for minutes, and my chaturanga is fluid and smooth. Hell, I’m even able to hug my elbows to my ribs, and slowly flow through it. But, there are other days. And on those days, I have to stay on my knees through the plank. And my chaturanga is a terrible caricature of a belly flop. But that’s okay.
The thing about yoga is that you’re constantly evolving as a practitioner, which means your practice is constantly evolving. And like real scientific evolution, it’s not a straight line progression. There are weird forks and offshoots and strange mutations. And that’s okay. It’s your practice, and the yoga approach is to appreciate your body throughout your practice, and to do what your body and spirit need.
I can’t force my arms to be strong on days when they’re so sore from all the tension I carry in my shoulders. I can’t force myself to do a handstand just because all the other women in the class are doing one. I can’t force my body to do things it can’t do. And it’s a complete waste of time to get mad about or stew over things your body can’t do.
But you will never regret the time you spend thanking your body for what it has done for you. You will never regret the extra rest you give yourself when you know you need it. You will never regret going to the gym for a quick gentle yoga session that will help your muscles relax. You will never regret those few extra minutes of meditation where your mind is still.
In yoga there is no comparison. There is no shame. (Even if you fart in class.) In yoga, it’s just you and what you can do that day.In yoga there is no comparison. There is no shame. (Even if you fart in class.) Click To Tweet
The Yoga Approach to Life
So, what does this look like in your everyday life? Well, a lot of things.
For me, the yoga approach to life is about not beating myself up. So I accidentally overslept. So I ate a “bad” food I “shouldn’t have.” (Don’t get me started on how screwed up it is to put moral implications behind sustenance.) So I wasn’t able to crank out 5,000 words in one day. So I didn’t finish grading every last paper by a self-imposed deadline.
If any of these events occur, the sun will rise the next day. The world will continue going on as it always has.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I want for those things to occur. In fact, I will still work to prevent them from occurring. But what the yoga approach to life lets me do is not beat myself up about it. If I oversleep and miss a workout, I may still wish that I hadn’t missed the workout. But I won’t be mad at myself because there are probably thousands of workouts ahead of me. If I miss a self-imposed deadline, there will still be hours in the future where I can work on what needs to be finished.
If I eat a “bad” food, there will be plenty of healthier meals that follow it. And, to that end, if I happen to gain a little weight around a holiday, or I don’t look a certain way in an article of clothing I’m trying on, I DO NOT LOSE SLEEP OVER IT. My body is what is at whatever time it is. It will change shape all through my life. All I can do is nourish it by eating the foods that sustain me best, by resting when I feel I need to, and doing the sorts of exercises that make me happy.
Just Weeds in a Ditch
Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some fellow bloggers, and I got to meet Dee. I mentioned to Dee that I’m kind of a failure when it comes to gardening. (You remember El Generalisimo and my ill-gotten tomatoes, right? Oh, and this orchid is still alive through no fault of my own.) Then, Dee straight up dropped some hard knowledge on me.
She said that my generation is so results-oriented that we can’t focus on the journey. (GUILTY.) Then, she basically said that gardening was like yoga because it’s a practice. (Perfect metaphor for me, Dee.) Not only is she 100% correct, but it made me stop and think about how much this “failure” mindset has poisoned my self-image.
If you think about it, yoga and gardening are both very futile pursuits. Sure, you may get fitter and healthier with yoga, but mostly you’ll feel very stagnant and like you’ll never be the girl in a Lululemon ad. And sure, you may grow a tomato or two in your garden, but you may also find that your soil is infected with some weird sort of Dutch fungus that is deadly when eaten but could potentially make a great substitute for penicillin. (Or something. Again, I suck at gardens.)
But that’s the thing about life, isn’t it? You could grow up to be the very best at everything and well loved by all, but you’re still going to wind up dead in the dirt.
So, it only makes sense to appreciate your time, and do what you need during that time, regardless of whether or not it meets your expectations.It only makes sense to appreciate your time, and do what you need during that time, regardless of whether or not it meets your expectations. Click To Tweet