Yoga can be practice for making shapes, or practice for shaping your life.
A long while back I worked as a counselor. It was very short-lived, and I was really pretty bad at it. I just wanted to tell people exactly what to do; it always seemed so clear! And it had virtually no impact. We could agree sometimes, by talking. But we didn't see changes this way. We didn't reach breakthroughs.
It took me a long while to learn this one. And really I still try to convince people of things more than I should, just by talking. But the good thing is I've also found a better way.
We can approach each other—and ourselves—through our minds. That never worked so well for me. Or we can approach through our bodies. This is what I do every day now with Strala. And this one works.
How we are is how we are. All day, every day, in everything we do, we're the same. We bring who we are, how we are, into everything. Sometimes we move with all kinds of tension in our bodies and minds. Everything is a struggle. If there's something in our way, we run right in and slam against it. We work hard at every step. Life is tough. You don't get anywhere without a fight.
This approach gives a declining return. I've seen people get some places this way, by force. But usually this goes along with an unbalanced life and a persistent desire for something different. Some success at work, not so much in the rest. Goals achieved, but never feeling good enough to notice. Stress burrows in and makes its home in us. Health doesn't go so well from here.
So there's a better way, a way where we learn to move in harmony with ourselves. We drop the stress and tension and move with grace and coordination—every part of us moving happily and easily with every other part. Our minds open to see fully what's around and available to us. We respond openly and creatively to ourselves and the world. We learn something about ourselves moving in this way. We learn something about the world moving in this way.
We learn that we create ourselves through how we move. We also create the world in this way.
Yoga can give us a way to do more than talk about all of this. It can give us a way to very clearly practice what we want in our lives. Of course, it's not only yoga that can do this. Calligraphy, walking, climbing, tai chi—there are so many ways we can look at ourselves each day. But yoga happens to have a very rich vocabulary of movement, which gives an easier and more efficient way to get into moving with our whole selves. Learning to move easily, everything we've got, in every direction we can move it.
Practicing this is a choice, and it's a choice that involves some risk. Because it means changing some pretty big beliefs about the world. And some even bigger beliefs about ourselves.
We might believe the world is a tough place, full of stress and struggle, and if we're not suffering, we're not going to get anywhere. That's just life. We bring this into our yoga—holding all kinds of tension in our bodies and minds, immobilizing ourselves in so many ways, then trying to move, one part of us rigidly isolated from every other part—and then we feel frustrated that it's so hard to move. We might even enjoy practicing this way. It's what we're used to doing in our lives, and it's what we're used to believing about what it takes to achieve.
So we get better at what we practice. We get even better at suffering and bringing more stress and strain into our lives.
Or we might believe that it's possible to get where we want to go, feeling good every step of the way. We might believe that choosing peace over aggression is a way of accomplishing more in this life, not less. We give our yoga a structure in which we can practice this — releasing tension from our bodies and minds, softly mobilizing ourselves before we try to move, then moving easily, through every challenge.
We learn something valuable about ourselves in this way. We learn that we can do much more than we ever imagined, using much less effort, simply believing that it's OK to feel good. More than OK.
This is a big one. And it's not just a nice idea for while we're on vacation. It's what gets us where we want to be. It creates the progress we all want in our lives.
If it's that big promotion you want, or a better job, or the ability to be an inspiring manager, this is how you get yourself there. If you really need to lose weight, or gain weight, this is how. You want to take control of your health, heal injuries, or alleviate pain. Be a faster, more agile athlete or have a better time with your family. It's not diets that get you there, you already know this. It's not aggressive exercise regimes or endless self-help seminars. It begins somewhere a little closer to home first.
Our biggest obstacles—most of what immobilizes us, makes it so much struggle and stress to get where we want to go in our lives—are in the beliefs we hold about this world and about ourselves. So we have to begin here. There's no way around it. And we begin not just by talking about it but by putting it into your body. Make it yours.
And you don't need to take anyone's word for it or follow any directions that aren't your own, any paths that sound foreign or strange. You are your own best laboratory. When you do this, you'll know that it works. You won't have to think about it. You'll know it.
It's not relying on something outside of you, or something you don't have that you really need. It's breaking through to what you do have that gets you going. And this feels good, always.