Everyday Yoga

Can you take your practice of your mat and into the everyday?  Has the inspiration you find in your practice bled into the struggle of your everyday life?  This is the ultimate test of your yoga practice: for it to train you into Presence.  Sometimes yoga can be a much needed refuge from the droning rhythms of daily life, it can be an essential escape from the hardships and challenges we face.  But, I believe, it is ultimately training ground for learning how to really live – in the midst.I’ve noticed throughout my yoga journey that I have often been desperate to get on my mat and escape the demands of my life.  I have sometimes felt the anxious need for practice in the same way I would imagine that obsessive compulsive’s need their rituals – to ease the angst of living, if only for a few more moments. In this way, we could have the most impressive yoga practice and still be living out old destructive patterns.  Alternatively to this, yoga practice is not a temporary bandaid fix, which we begin to crave again almost as soon as it has finished.  It is, instead, a experiment in showing up, the sacred training of our attention to flood each moment with awareness rather than retreat into habits and patterns that keep us bound as automatons in our lives.

It is sometimes the case that people begin to experience a greater capacity for really “being in” or experiencing the every day as their yoga practice develops. But, I believe we must be quite intentional about bridging the gap between practice and life asking questions about how our practice informs our ability to truly live.  To do this we must actively blend yoga and life, helping these two spheres to merge regularly.  I may be able to pull off a stellar headstand on my mat and feel the aliveness turned on in every cell in the midst of it, but am I willing to do the same in a board meeting, a disagreement with my child or in the act of making love?  What parts of me will hide away from those moments, scared to suffer, to enjoy or to live?

Here are some things to consider about blending of practice into everyday life:

1.  Use your imagination.  This is a powerful tool in various forms of psychotherapy and some spiritual traditions.  I like to imagine what it might be like to experience both effort and ease in the midst of making a meal for my family, conversing with a friend, or engaging a disagreement with another person.  What might it be like to experience these things without judgement, with an open heart and soft body like you might explore a new asana?

2. Don’t take your instruction (whatever form that takes) at face value.  Question everything.   Why does this book ask me to place my foot there when it feels uncomfortable?  How does doing a particular sequence help me live the life I want to live? Asking questions puts you in a dialogue with your practice – a relationship.  In relationship there can be an intimacy that integrates teachings and transforms them into knowledge – liveable wisdom.   Don’t fall deeper asleep just because it’s a yoga teacher, not your boss or mass media telling you what to do.

3.  Give up hoping anything outside of you will motivate you to live your yoga daily.  Instead, let go into the experience of your suffering, feel it deeply and let it be intrinsic motivation for your transformation.  We can’t open to spirit until we fall into our humanness so if you do nothing else to integrate yoga more deeply into your daily life, feel the deep ache of your separation from Spirit more completely.

4.  Stop thinking that it’s going to be anything but hard work.  There’s no quick fixes to integrating yogic wisdom into life.  But if you want it, then tussle with it.  Roll around in the mud, get dirty, wrestle with your freedom.  If anyone tells you that living “yogically” is anything but work has not yet brawled with their dark spiritual underbelly.  So, just when you think that you’ve fallen off the spiritual wagon yet again, remember that you’re not alone.

Finally, believe in the birthright of your Wholeness.  And slowly, but earnestly, gather  together fragments of Freedom every day of your life.