Taking your yoga off the mat and into everyday life.
Yoga is one of those things that can’t be defined, yet is defined uniquely by many individuals. It is something hard to grasp, yet held and experienced deeply. When I first started practicing yoga I knew there was something big that kept drawing me back; something familiar, something that felt like home.
In the beginning days of my practice, the asana (physical practice) is mainly what I paid attention to; alignment, breathing and opening my body. It felt good and that is what I knew. As my practice evolved, Nicki Doane, a world renown yoga instructor, introduced me to yoga sutras where she opened my perspective to the infinite, the place where the impossible is made possible. A place where your connection to the unknown becomes known, it is witnessed and experienced here, in the now. While practicing for hours intensely with Nicki, she would consistently say “effortless effort”. From this, she would talk lengthy about holding your posture and finding the blend of applying effort while being relaxed, in a sense finding the dualities in your posture and from there turning your gaze inward to focus on the endless energy within.
B.K.S. Iyengar defines this yoga sutra by Patanjali II.47 perfectly: Perfection in an asana is reached only when effort ceases, instilling infinite poise and allowing the finite vehicle, the body, to merge in the seer. For example when holding your downward dog with all your might, I invite you to soften and relax as well. Root down through your hands and press the earth away to elongate your upper body. Lengthen while gravity tries to pull you down and make you compressed. Reach your heels to the earth while lifting your sit bones to the sky. Engage the front of your legs, quads, and soften your hamstrings. Within all these dualities, breath in and out. All these opposites are happening, and I invite you again to take your gaze inward, become aware. Become present. See what is there.
Applying this sutra, one of 196, to my practice not only deepened my experience to a place where I can find that piece of stillness, but also find contentment within myself, peace.
How can we apply these concepts we learn on our mat to our everyday life? Awareness and presence in your everyday life is a great place to start.
I just experienced birthing my first child. While in the hospital experiencing strong contractions, a pain so deep and primal, this sutra was applied. I didn’t realize it was something I was doing until I was meditating after this experience. The sign of a contraction would come on slowly and although I wanted to run and turn from this pain, doing the exact opposite was needed; turn to it. My whole body wanted to clench and tighten, but all that was needed was to ultimately relax, let go; let go of the thoughts, the breath, the pain, the expectations. From here turning my gaze inward was a place to be, a place to find comfort and serenity.
During these 13 hours of grueling, priceless and beyond words experience, I have never felt so close to God, or the universe, this finite place…whatever language you call this force. It’s funny to think how close you can be to peace yet experience ultimate pain.
After these 13 hours, my little man Eddy was born weighing 8lbs and 6oz. Sending endless bows, gratitude and thanks to yoga, my teachers and this practice that has helped me through many difficult times in my life.
Now take a moment to look at something current in your life that makes you want to run or hide. I would love to challenge you to take this sutra and apply it to your life. Do the exact opposite of what you are doing and turn inward, see what bubbles up to the surface for you. Allow it to run through you. Become aware of these things that make you uncomfortable so you are comfortable in your own skin. Find your life filled with effortless effort and turn inward.
Who knew peace could be so close? Often we search the whole world for this sense of peace, when all we needed to do is to gaze inward. And once you find this peace, allow it to ripple out off your mat and into your life. What greater gift can you give? Peace for yourself, peace for others.
“The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself.” – Nicki Doane
“Make it a good one…” – Mandy Chutskoff