Even as popular as yoga has become, most folks still think of yoga as some esoteric, pretzel making thing that flexible people do. I can definitely see why it might look that way from the outside. Just look at the cover of most yoga magazines. Yet, the more time I have with yoga the more I see how little the physical practice matters in the grand scheme of things. Don't get me wrong here. The physical practice is crucial and alone can do astonishing things for people. Yet, I've known some people who are amazing asana practitioners and teachers, who are shockingly remedial at most other things in their lives. The yoga can definitely stop at the mat. Don't let that happen to you.
Perhaps you can come to see the physical practice of yoga as the gateway, one with a keypad lock that's unique to each of us. And it's up to us to figure out our code through the physical work, to unlock our tendencies and figure out what new tendencies we need to make ourselves better human beings. When we unlock our code, that gateway to our mind and spirit opens, revealing a world of possibilities...and work to do. The work is to integrate ourselves into one high-functioning, always cool, yogafied being. But, well, that takes awhile doesn't it?
The lifelong timeframe of yoga can be discouraging, especially when we're used to so much instant gratification in our daily lives. Yet, if we can shift our focus even slightly to the little victories on our path and rejoice in them, then our journey transforms from one of toil and struggle for a summit that never comes to a fantastic trip filled with wildflowers and butterflies. Yes, we might step in some poo or trip on a tree root here and there. But, we won't get bogged down so much when we see the beauty all around and celebrate every step taken, no matter how small.
One of the first elements of our code that we unlock when we get into practicing yoga is the breath. It happened for me that way, and I wish I had a dime for every student I've heard report the same. It happens like this: you get into "going to yoga class" or "doing yoga at home" and for a while yoga is just these poses and stretches and breathing you do on a mat. Other than feeling better in your body, you aren't really sure how yoga fits into the rest of your life. Then, one day, you're in a long line, or stuck in traffic, or somebody really pushes your pissy button, and you do it. You notice yourself getting impatient or upset, and you pause, and...take a deep yogic breath. That's it! You've just unlocked a huge part of the code that lets yoga into your whole life, into your whole being. That little moment, where you catch yourself reacting like a silly wild animal, and breathe to flip the script and choose a better way. That's the moment, my friend, that you start to yogafy your life.
If only everyone in the world at least got to that stage, can you imagine what a better place the world might be? We could be exponentially better to each other and to ourselves. I got to use my yogic breathing both on people behaving nastily and on myself in the face of some of the worst pain I've experienced in my life this week (i.e. Portuguese man of war ain't no regular old jellyfish), and it made such a huge difference in the outcomes in both cases. Rather than allowing myself to get sucked down in the destructive side of emotional reactions, I could create some space in my head to evaluate my emotions and choose a productive response. And it started each time with my breath. Just breathe. Keep breathing... That is always and ever the mantra.
So I challenge you this week to breathe. Anytime you catch yourself listing or swinging wildly off your center, stop and take a deep breath. Follow it with another, and another, until you can see your emotions in a more rational light again. Then choose your actions wisely. If you can do this just once this week, that'll be a humongous victory! Celebrate it, rejoice in it, and reward yourself - seriously.
And to help you out with your stock of yogic breathing, I'm opening the window to one of our videos in the MOJO library by making it available here for you blog readers for a limited time. So there's no excuse this week to not get your practice in and be successful in your challenge. Go get your yogic breathing on, and get your mojo working!