Much of what we practice in a yoga class is awareness of what is happening within. We tune in to the sensations that arise during and after each practice. We observe the arising of thoughts and feelings throughout body and mind. We’re left feeling uplifted and inspired with a new energy, we take with us into the world around us.
Sometimes not so much. Our practice offers many of these kinds of uncomfortable experiences. Looking within during practice, we sometimes encounter a demanding internal voice expecting us to feel a certain way, reach a certain point in our stance or stretch or even to look a certain way. We expect to feel lifted and inspired by it all. Surely (we say to ourselves) we can only be doing it right if all these things are true.
As always, this is true in class as it is for the rest of our lives.
Over time our practice of Yoga offers a unique opportunity to work with the more negative and critical aspects of ourselves. The things we come up against as we journey inwards. The parts of ourselves that demand more, in exchange for the promise of happiness and love. We notice much of the happiness, the peace, the joy we aspire to comes with conditions or hurdles laid out ahead. At best these are a struggle, at worst they are entirely impossible to overcome. This is in part because we have created them ourselves by our thoughts and beliefs.
Yoga is the practice of presence and awareness. We are challenged to accept with loving kindness what we find when we dig deeper and become more aware of ourselves. Our minds swirl. Sometimes with expectation or even criticism and doubt. We cannot have a truely authentic experience, unless we accept the truth we find when we look within. Whether pleasant or unpleasant.
Try consider what conditions you have placed on your sense of contentment and acceptance. Will a new job bring you the happiness you have always wanted? Will a new relationship or group of friends bring the contentment that currently seems out of reach? Will perfection of thought, action or Yoga pose be the thing you need to be happy? What else have you placed between yourself and a more inspired joyful life? How much effort will it take to get there?
The practice of Yoga offers an alternative.
“Self approval and self acceptance in the now are the main keys to positive change” Louise Hay
When we accept and approve of ourselves in the present moment, we soon discover and draw inspiration from any and all combination of friends, job, community or economic and political condition. We discover through practice that rather than being dependant on the external world for our happiness we are the source of all these experiences, whether blissful, joyous, harmonious and uplifting. Whether uncomfortable and confusing.
It all provides illumination for who we truly are.