Search for the benefits of yoga and you’ll be entertained for years with copious amounts of books, articles, research, facts, opinions, lovers, haters, and everything in between. Some of the most useful content you can find right here at MBG. Being a yogi and a writer feeds me with enthusiasm which I must digest and ultimately share each day. I aim to provide my students with some insight that they may have escaped thus far, framed in a way that hopefully resonates, and that is my intention here too. When I visit old friends and family I haven’t seen in a while (spanning from months to years) they all ask me the same thing with a perplexed look on their faces, “what are you doing, what’s different about you?” I weigh the same I have for most of my life, my hair is wild and curly just as it’s always been, very little has changed externally. What I feel people are perceiving is my shift in energy, in tone, in my mood, my attitude, my approach. I smile more, complain less, the chip on my shoulder has slowly been sanded down by the gentle hand of yoga, and beyond feeling strong and healthy, I feel purely open and so damn electrified to be alive. Below are a few subtle yet profound changes that will gradually take residence in your consciousness as yoga becomes your way of life.
1. Timelessness: When presence is valued, time is recognized as a man-made tool and utilized as such. This moment is appreciated and savored, rather than viewing a ticking clock approaching some more important future moment where things must be accomplished and others must be satisfied. You satisfy your soul by giving all that you are to Now, only using time as a means to organize an interesting life.
2. Agelessness: Similar to timelessness, once we eliminate psychological time, our past and future, and we stop emphasizing birthdays as major markers in our lives, we realize we are only as old as we feel. Back before man invented time, the calendar and eventually significant dates like that of our births, human beings simply lived, survived each day, not knowing the time, the day, the year, or that by being a specific age their lives were now at a decline, creeping along to their impending death. Perfectly healthy people allow themselves to feel old simply because they’ve turned a specific age. What a waste of energy. Celebrate the shit out of your life, wear your age and your milestones like a badge of honor, but then let them go right after and return to the still place that has no age, that knows nothing of numbers and labels, but that simply yearns to live ecstatically through a healthy mind, body and heart.
As a child I only wanted to be older. 3 going on 30 my parents said. Each age meant something to me, something completely fabricated in my weird little mind. And once that age hit, it never felt like I thought it would, because the mind is no substitute for experiencing life and it is certainly not smart enough to predict the future in any accurate way. Wanting to be somewhere you’re not is the root for all discontent and long-term unhappiness. Forget the number, be where, who and what you are. There need not be an follow up the the mantra I AM. You are not your name, your age, your circumstances, your characteristics. You are alive. That is more than enough.
3. Weightlessness: As I mentioned above, there are cavalcades of quality information on the benefits of Yoga, the least of which being the improvements to your body. In savasana we learn to shed our skin, to leave our past selves behind on our mats and to move forward lighter, better, smarter. When I refer to weightlessness, the benefits are multi-fold: Concerning yourself less with number on the scale, the number on your clothing and the number on the tape measurer, Yoga will bring you to a place of pure acceptance of who and what you are, the so-called flaws becoming interesting and the calories seen as fuel, as a vital source of energy for your body, rather than a signpost to heaviness.
We recognize we are fully equipped with all that we need and we have the strength and intelligence to treat our bodies how we see fit. The more you fall in love with the life form that you are, the better you see, feel and treat yourself each day. This same truth is applied for our stress and anxiety. I can’t express with enough gravitas that our fixation with our past, our mistakes, our heartaches, and our trepidation for the future, our confusion and discomfort with the unknown, can and will only prevent us from health and happiness now. When we release our attachment and our fear related to these old mental patterns, the burden we’ve placed on ourselves is lifted and we feel and appear lighter. Let go and let yourself simply live, fresh, pure and new each day.
4. Fearlessness: Big one. Tough one. Best one. It’s a beautiful moment when you become aware you are moving out of the sidelines, where you admired the courageous and brave, and stepped into life as the audacious one, inspiring yourself with bold proclivity. Fear cloaks us with a stench difficult to rid. So often we wish to reach for the hand of another, jump off the cliff into the water, sing or dance to our heart’s content, but we do not. We fantasize of the criticism and ridicule that may or may not exist in another’s mind, never knowing the truth, only stifling our own joy, and potentially the joy of others. You are intelligent enough to know when you are truly protecting yourself from certain death and when you are cheating yourself out of life.
On the mat, we approach poses with similar mind-sets. “I will never achieve this pose, I hate how I look in this pose, I can’t touch my toes, I’m worried about falling, my body can’t do that.” Those are just five cliche examples of excuses used on our mats. There are of course many more and they come uniquely packaged in our own crap. Choosing fear, choosing to not do, say or embrace a challenge, opportunity or dream, says we do not trust ourselves to absorb the consequences. We eliminate the possibilities of exhilaration, of learning, of fulfillment and go straight to the terrifying what-if section that is sure to let us know we are not enough and we are not equipped to deal with failure in any capacity. Bullshit. You are more than capable. Get out of your own way, come into the light where you belong.
When we relinquish fear we open ourselves to Love. To the love that we are, the love that we have, and the ability to wrap ourselves in love of all forms. There isn’t a hardened, invisible, impenetrable shell encasing our heart, our goodness, our joy. We knock down the walls we so meticulously built, little by little, until all that is left is our beautiful vulnerability, our innocence, our compassion, our genuine kindness. Trusting ourselves implicitly, we’re then ready to live a full, adventurous life, with only excitement for what’s to come, ready to withstand it all. There will be highs, lows and everything in-between. You know this but you are undisturbed. Nothing can shake your inner strength, the stillness with which you respond and the Love that nourishes you and others. Those have no opposites, they are bound by nothing, as indestructible as the sky itself.