Let's face it. Life isn't easy.
You work hard to pay your bills. At the end of the day, you just want to relax and hang out with friends and family. You struggle to find time to take care of yourself-- to shop for groceries, to cook, and to exercise.
And for what? Have you stopped to question what's really important to you?
Since I grew up and entered the working world, I've struggled to find meaning in life. I worked at a corporate job, then as a yoga teacher, and now as a yoga studio owner. Even though I"m getting closer, at times I wonder why I get so caught up in minutae - emails, keeping students happy, keeping family happy.
Have you felt this disconnect between how you spend your day and your life's purpose?
Many of us have-- it's part of being human. Here's where you can either stay in your zombie-like routine or you can stop and start to wake up. Eastern philolosophies like Yoga and Buddhism offer us a way out of the mundane. But be warned, sometimes when you begin this process, your life can change.
You might be surprised to hear that the yogis of the past pondered the meaning of life. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, probably the central text of yoga philosophy, gives us ancient wisdom that applies to our modern dilemmas.
A sutra is a thread, and they are short, succinct phrases packed with wisdom. Thousands of commentaries have been written to dissect their wisdom. Each sutra offers valuable nuggets of wisdom.
We'll start at the beginning with the first sutra,
"Now (begins) the exposition of Yoga."
This simple statement hides a few gems of wisdom. And you can use these gems to enhance your practice of yoga -- which is more than just postures on a yoga mat. Yoga also includes meditation, breathing, and contemplation of life's meaning.
1. You can start afresh.
You can start a yoga practice at any time -- new students, returning students, or lifelong students. All yoga starts in this moment. You start or re-start anytime. The key is to leave your judgements aside about your starting point.
When you start (or restart) yoga you can renew other parts of your life. Yoga is a keystone practice, because it helps you to keep other good habits. If you practice yoga postures you'll sleep more soundly and think more about what you eat. My own mother said to me recently, "I'm less likely to eat like a pig when I do a little yoga in the morning."
Yoga is like your grandmother, always waiting with open arms to envelop and love you when you return.
2. You still haven't found what you're looking for.
And now you are turning to yoga. Maybe you've tried sex, drugs, food, or rock-and-roll. Those pursuits don't bring lasting happiness. Yoga offers us the chance to look deeply at our own existence, to question and ponder where we've come from and where we'll go. In Buddhism there is the notion that we are looking for an end to the suffering of life. Both yoga and buddhism encourage us to end the suffering by understanding the temporary nature of life.
When we understand that everything is temporary, over time we can learn to let go of attachments to how things should be. With diligent practice you can learn to be comfortable with what is. And then you can stop searching for satisfaction outside of yourself.
3. Yoga is like an iceberg, and the postures are only the tip.
That's right, although ninety percent of the images we see are of lithe bodies in pretzel postures, most of yoga is about the internal process. The goal of the postures is to facilitate internal awareness, of breath, of mind, of emotional state. Then you learn to let go of judgments of others and yourself. You learn how to breathe deeply and notice your mind's state. You notice when you fall into your habitual patterns. Over time you start to reverse your patterns. Instead of thinking, "I'm a terrible mother," or, "I have no self-control." You catch yourself. Instead, "I'm not perfect, but I do my best to love and cherish my children." And "I slip up sometimes, but overall I'm trying to eat healthier."
Why Yoga Is Here To Stay
Some people think yoga is a trend like others. It's rise to popularity will lead to a slow decline, like the aerobics craze of the eighties.
I'm here to tell you why that's not true.
Yoga impacts us deeply. When practiced with sincerity for a long time it changes you from the inside out.
As our cultures become busier and more frenzied, we need a counter-change. We need to stop and question why we run like hamsters on a wheel.
Stop. Inhale, and exhale. Then repeat.