Yoga is a never ending education. Throughout your time with this practice you’ll discover more about your body, mind and heart than you ever felt possible. I’m still in awe each day for the view which yoga has opened the door to see. I imagine this fascination, as well as my gains and losses, will fluctuate with the tides, but what will remain are the gifts yoga has given and freed me to release since opening myself to it years ago. Here’s a few resolute gains and losses that stick curtesy of yoga.
1. Weight - When you practice consistently, muscle begins to tone, fat begins to metabolize, soon inches are gone and clothes are loose. But the greatest weight you lose is the burden of a heavy heart or a guilty conscience. When you breathe consciously and start living in presence, the past no longer has a stronghold over who you can be now. Forgiveness of yourself and others frees you, lightens your spirit, so you can move and be in the flow instead of struggling against it.
2. Comparisons - Whether you’re measuring your body, face, hair, skill, intellect, achievements, artistry, beliefs, relationships or spirit against another’s, you lose. You miss out on the 1 out of 7 billion extraordinary human being living on this planet that is You! Why must we envy others? Because something fundamental in us believes we are not enough. That is complete and utter bullshit. It no longer matters what unfortunate person led you to believe this. They were wrong. Drop every last thought that leaves you feeling inferior or even superior to anyone else. We are at once specific, unique and alone, and infinitely linked, as one. We breathe, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, poop, and cry the same. From Oprah, to the Dalai Lama, to the homeless man down on his luck, to me, to you. No one will ever replicate your being again. Lose yourself in the awesomeness of you, stay in touch with that goodness in others, and you will gain infinite bliss.
3. Expectations - An uglier, more conniving sister to comparisons, expectations are the egos poison and method of manipulation. We wait to see if the outside world will make us happy instead of choosing happiness first and seeing how the day unfolds second. “I’ll do or say this and ______ will respond accordingly.” Fill in the blank with who or what and you can see the problem right there. Living with expectation means we live and operate out of the fantasy land that is our minds. We decide to do something and daydream about the result and when our expectations are inevitably disappointed, we feel defeated. Set your own parameters and thresholds. Release all future based contentment and simply breathe because it is your life force, live what you love and let the reaction from others and response from the universe be as it is.
4. Guilt - A major source of self-induced pain and sadness, guilt stifles our growth, cripples our movement and closes the door of our hearts with a dark cloud overhanging. The more we define ourselves by our worst moments, the more we cloud over the goodness that still resides within. We all experience guilt uniquely. Whatever the cause, can you think of any good reason to hang on to it now? How is it serving you and bettering the past? It isn’t. What’s done is done. Forgive, let go, move on. Whoever you’re carrying this guilt for is not benefitting and neither are you. Live now as the wiser, more loving you.
5. Attachment - You remember the clinginess and desperation of falling in love? The unbridled anger and frustration when an item of yours is damaged or stolen? How about when someone disagrees with you on your most fundamental beliefs? I used to be a woman of many opinions and not afraid to show it. I wore my cynicism as a badge of honor and felt very identified by this sarcastic, unwavering chip I carried on my shoulder. When I became aware of how much energy I was placing on the aspects of least importance, I cried. Literally. I realized how much time I wasted and how much I missed out on. No opinion my mind constructed means more than respecting my fellow human being. And no car, house, bag or diamond can ever take precedent over my ability to love, to nurture, to kiss, to hug, to laugh and to live. I enjoy nice things, I still carry some beliefs but I recognize how fleeting they are, how subject they are to change and how little they say about who I am as a human being. Drop attachment and instead of your ego speaking for you, your essence will shine through and have far greater impact than anything else.
6. Resentment - Bitterness is an ugly energy to hold and project. You are holding your own happiness hostage in the control of someone else. Similar with guilt, letting go of blaming restores you back to zero. If someone proved detrimental to your well-being and has affected your life negatively, wish them well and be on your way. Wasting time with resentment only serves to glue you to your place of discontent, stuck in a time-warp. Give yourself permission to live free from the influence of past events, hold only love in your heart and you will go far.
7. Doubt - An unfortunate side-effect of fear, doubt, particularly the doubt of self, consumes our state of being, leading us to question ourselves incessantly. Being inquisitive and questioning what you know and what you’re perceiving is one thing, and can often be very healthy, but self-doubt only serves to get in our own way, to keep us from listening to our hearts. Instead, all we hear is our ego. Courage and doubt cannot co-exist. We must gradually release fear and give self-love a shot instead.
1. Energy - Moving your body with mindfulness, the way yoga inspires us to, leaves us feeling open and fueled during our days. By changing the blood flow, increasing the depth of our breath and challenging the heart with vinyasas, we send signals to the brain, to the blood and to our hearts that remind us of the well oiled machines we’re here to be.
2. Gratitude - I always kept a place in my heart for appreciation. Rather than traditional prayer, I opted to give thanks any way I could during my day. The gratitude yoga instills is much simpler and yet even more profound. I feel so grateful to be alive each day, grateful for how my body feels and responds, grateful for my mind which is only sharper since breathing and flowing each day, grateful for my heart’s ability to love and surrender, and for the many beautiful experiences I have day in and day out. Clothes, jewelry, cars and things are a very low on the list, if at all. I’m most grateful for the things that cannot be taken away. They live within me and within each of us.
3. Confidence - Genuine love of self has little to do with projecting your prowess, your skills, your earnings or your accomplishments, and has more to do with your awe and appreciation for your life and your ability to live it. This translates into being open to others and to the moment, however it arrives. Confidence is simply trust and love emanating from the inside out.
4. Presence - A constant theme in whatever I write, how I teach and even the material I read surrounds the idea of presence. Our brains have a tremendous capacity to store memory. Unfortunately, the other tools of the brain get hold of these memories, which are then used against us somehow, keeping us trapped in fear. Recognizing our ability to truly let go and no longer be defined by those very specific moments in time will open us to the exquisite joy that is held Now.
5. Grace - Once you have a grasp on the foundational poses, on the importance of your body’s alignment in these postures, and once your breath is prioritized, you will move with ease, like a dance, flowing to the pulse of your own heart. Moving with kindness and patience is moving with grace. Beyond the physical improvement, you’ll acquire an intuitive, soulful grace as well. Challenges will humble and inform you. Accomplishments will do the same. Grace is being able to witness someone’s still intelligence while remaining in motion, absorbing life’s circumstances as they come, and staying aware, present and grateful through and through.
6. Acceptance - Few choices in your life will positively affect you more than deciding to accept more and resist less. Accept yourself as you are today, let go of who you were even moments ago or ideas of who you should be moments from now. And then allow this acceptance to translate into the world as you perceive it. So regardless if a store clerk is kind or rude to you, accept it. Regardless if you are hired or fired, accept it. Everything we experience outside the life forms we are is fleeting and transient. We will gain and lose everything and everyone at some point. Accept this and you will awaken from the dream and acknowledge how good we all have it.
7. Awareness - Access your stillness within, the calm before the storm that is your thoughts and mind-made stress, and this alert eye will restore your internal hard-drive. Osho says it best, “Awareness means to be in the moment so totally that there is no movement toward the past, no movement toward the future-all movement stops.” Let go of doing, thinking and trying. Awaken. Be aware. Simply Be.
These gains and losses inspire and infiltrate the others, a cocktail of aliveness. This isn’t a to do list or a diet. These are powerful but intangible qualities that will slowly shift your energy within. Freeing yourself from the burdens of the past will not wrong any rights or somehow condone the caustic behavior of another, just as relinquishing control over the future will not eliminate the possibilities of struggle or suffering. These gains and losses strip away nonsense and clutter creating the space necessary to be you. Awaken each day and bring awareness to the stupefying experience that is being. Give yourself the gift of yoga.