Yoga is a practice meant to make me strong, flexible and balanced. Every breath I take, every twist I make is meant to build a habit of focused mind/body work. Since I started almost a decade ago I have learned something in every class, about yoga or myself. Yoga itself is a change-making ritual. Anything we might practice with love and kindness every day is likely to stick, and to creep in to other parts of our lives. What I know about change I really learned from yoga.
Show up—unless I show up on my yoga mat all of my desires about being strong, flexible and balanced are vaporware. It’s the same with change. Change requires showing up to work on the change. Wishing and hoping while maintaining status quo doesn’t work.
Breathe—the fundamental practice of yoga is breathing. Breathing connects me to my body during each pose. Breathing adds oxygen to my exerting muscles. Breathing helps me let go (of judgment and pain and control). Breathing helps build stamina. When we are making change it’s easy for us to freak out and forget to breathe. More oxygen helps us think instead of getting caught up in old and limiting ways. When change feels overwhelming I do a lot of sighing. It helps me sit with and move through the anxiety that fills my chest.
Focus--on what I can control. I can control whether or not I show up. I can control how I dress to be comfortable. I can control whether or not I bring my self fully into the room, on the mat, toes spread and sturdy. Being in my body is the best grounding for me to make all life’s decisions; and I make better decisions when I listen to what my body tells me. When making change it’s easy to get distracted and land in our heads that are trying desperately to tell us the 87 reasons we can’t make the change. Change requires us to focus and get clarity on what we seek, have a plan for how to get there and work the plan.
Persist—I’m grateful that every time I end and then restart a pose it’s a whole new pose. I get to explore yet one more way to fit my body into its own version. I think it was Thomas Edison who made 10,000 unsuccessful attempts before finally inventing the light bulb. With yoga even after 10,000 versions of a pose, the next would still be a whole new pose. After 10,000 repetitions of anything though I am decidedly better than I was without them, and all of a sudden one day I can do a pose easily that eluded me the day before. In making change it is persistence that eventually wins.
Rest—all yoga sessions are intermixed with poses that insert a moment of rest and renewal for energy channels to reboot. Downward facing dog and child’s pose are both rest poses. It’s the rest that rejuvenates the body. When we are changing, sometimes we find ourselves panicked about making things happen and forget to slow down and rest. Peace and calm are fuel for sustainable change.
Bop to the Beat—my unconventional yoga instructor plays music through the entire 1 ½ hour class, breaking rank with serious yogis I’m sure. But the music is part of the reason I like doing yoga with him. The music causes my body to sway. It feels better when I bop to the beat. In change too, a little rhythm and swaying can only make the change journey that much more enjoyable.