My savior has been yoga.
Once I made that New Year's resolution, I attended 4-5 times a week. Now that it is summer I have planned to attend yoga every single day when I am in my home town. I am even getting certified to teach Vinyasa yoga so that (hopefully!) I may get a job teaching it next year at college.
Yoga is more than just an exercise class. While one of its benefits is that it does happen to get you in shape, there's so much more depth to this practice that has been cultivated over thousands of years. I like to call it a moving meditation. In my life it is hard to take time to sit and meditate when I would rather be outside moving. My mind races and it is very hard for me to sit and just breathe. Yoga, however, gives me an outlet to do this by combining intense motions with breath. Often the asanas (yoga postures) can be very painful, but I have to remind myself that this is my mind drifting. I return to my breath and the present moment and time ceases to exist.
Sometimes there are mornings when I get up and dread going, but I know it is my mind, not my body. I force myself onto my mat and am always thankful after the practice that I made it.
Right now for my pre-teacher training I am reading a short book titled the "Yamas and Niyamas". I would highly suggest picking up a copy if you haven't already read it. It is insightful and a quick read. In Buddhism there is an eight-fold path to right living. In yoga, Pantajali created an eight-fold path of yoga (it is commonly referred to as Ashtanga yoga). The first two paths are the Yamas and Niyamas. Within the Yamas and NIyamas are ten "jewels" as the author calls them.
As yogamovement.com states: Yama is social behavior, how you treat others and the world around you. These are moral principles. Sometimes they are called the don'ts or the thou shalt nots. Niyama is inner discipline and responsibility, how we treat ourselves. These are sometimes called observances, the do's, or the thou shalts.
Right now I have only read about the first Yama called "Ahimsa" in sanskrit. It literally means "to do no harm". Many people understand this as nonviolence or to have compassion for all living things. When I first read the word nonviolence I thought it meant physical violence to others. But it is actually quite a broad spectrum. Ahimsa is about cultivating compassion for yourself first, not from an egocentric standpoint, but from a stance of appreciation and gratitude for the life and body we have. It is about addressing our fears. Sure there are times when we all feel our heart beat faster, but instead of backing out of something we should take that next step forward and turn fear into courage. Once we have compassion for ourselves only then can we grow healthy relationships from a place of truth.
As I look back at the yoga practice I have committed myself to these past five months I see how it has helped me grow compassion for myself-- my mind and body. I am actively trying to let go of that place of ego, to not come from a space of anger and agitation so frequently, and to remember and stop and take breaths. I did not have time to report this on my blog because I was living (and am still living) the experience. To write about it would take time and energy away from what I needed to focus on during those moments. But now that it is summer I can channel my energies into more pursuits and my blog is included. I am so happy and thankful to have this website to share my journey into the world of teaching yoga and all the experiences I encounter.
If you have made it this far to the end of my post I encourage you to take a step back now from all engagements (including reading this post) and take a couple deep, cleansing breaths. Remember that space of presence, remember to have love and compassion for the bodies that hold our souls, and grow yourself from a space of openness not critique.