In each yoga class, there is always an element of practicing balance. Whether we are balancing on one foot, establishing the inhalation to match the length of the exhalation, or sitting in meditation, one of the goals is to catch a glimpse of the quality of balance and equanimity – you know, it's the state of being calm, stable and composed, especially under stress.
When you're on your yoga mat there's a quality of Zen accompanied with the choice to turn your world upside down into a Downward Facing Dog. But in life, when you get knocked off your feet, it's beyond your control and everything feels more like a dog's life rather than a Downward Facing Dog. You know what I'm talking about. It's that feeling of inner calm that rapidly dissipates when you find yourself in traffic yelling at the $*?!~}^%#E! that cut you off while making interesting hand gestures with your “traffic finger” as they drive by (in yoga, we call these hand gestures “mudras”). Yogi's are supposed to have levitated beyond the external and the superficial, and I have to say I am no enlightened being - yet. And that's why they call yoga a “practice.”
My yogic quest has given me glimpses of my best self – and my worst. I've been practicing yoga for the last 14 years and I have to say it's been a bumpy road to enlightenment. My idea of Zen includes pampering myself at the Spa for the better part of the day and includes a facial. I'm not going to deny that my yoga outfit matters; I have to feel comfortable. How am I supposed to get into the flow if I'm all bunched up and my shirt is cutting off my vital energy, right?
I meditate, practice asanas, perform my breathing (pranayama) exercises and read yogic texts — and I still fall apart in the midst of calamity. There are times where I burn with anger and sink into depression. And then to lift myself out of it, I practice my Sun Salutations (incessantly) praying that the sun will shine and brighten my spirit. As I explore the physics of flight transitioning from a Downward Dog to Handstand I contemplate the possibilities of seeing my life from a different perspective – to reflect and find a new point of view.
Although it's sometimes a challenge, I try to refrain from glaring at rude people who shout in cell phones in public places; I take a deep breath when my husband is in a “mood” and let him have his moment (without taking it personal or reacting … well, most of the time); I remain calm when I see a snarling dog on the street (and if not, I fake it); I remember that sometimes it OK when it feels hard to stand on two feet.
I've come to learn that the journey of becoming a yogi is one of transformation and discovery. It requires a dedicated practice and a willingness to open to something greater to live a more meaningful and empowering life of freedom and joy. You have to be a bit crazy, creative, and sensitive. You need to be playful, inventive and patient. You need balance.
Right: yoga is a practice.
Back to the mat.