This post I want to talk about how yoga changed my life.
I know it may sound like a random topic to choose, or perhaps it sounds fairly typical for a new age twenty-something-year-old chick to talk about the “joys of yoga”… But nonetheless, it really has changed my life, and I think it could change yours too.
You see, it was through yoga that I’ve learned that we can’t always change what’s happening to us, but we CAN change the way we respond.
We all experience pain, right? – whether that pain is a headache, or back pain, stress, heartbreak, loneliness. Whatever is your pain, I am sure we’ve all experienced something, right?”e
We all experienced pain – but it is HOW we choose to experience that pain that is up to us – or more specifically, how we choose to react to that pain.
Imagine if I told you that you could change your response to pain and in the process be free from suffering Would you believe me?
In 1963 amidst a protest of the persecution of Buddhists, a Vietnamese monk sat down on a road in a traditional meditative lotus position, poured a can of petrol over his head, and as recited a homage to Buddha, he lit himself on fire and meditated until he burned to death.
For most of us, we scream when our coffee is too hot or when the shower is too cold. We react to pain far too easily.
But ladies and gentlemen, what that Vietnames monk did that day is proof that we have absolute control over our mind, over our pain tolerance, and over the way that react to almost all situations. And yoga offers us an insight into how we can control it.
For me, this lesson all started on my body, on the yoga mat.
The Chair pose (Utkatasana) is where I am often presented with this challenge. With my feet firmly grounded, and my knees bent, it involves dropping the tailbone and sitting down into the air. Holding the core tight, rolling the shoulders back/down and extending the arms out to create a dynamic tension through my body. Within this isometric hold, I must breathe to find balance and strength. After a period of time, the thighs begin to burn, the arms feel heavy, the breath naturally wants to shorten, the mind gets agitated— this is painful guys!! All I want to do is to come out of this hold and shake it off – everytime.
I have practiced yoga five times a week for the last 24 months. That means I’ve experienced this pose more than 520 times And I still feel the tension. I still feel the fire. I still feel the burn. Utkata means “wild,” “frightening,” “intense,” “furious,” “heavy”; and asana means “seat.” As I come into Utkatasana, I am literally sitting into a heavy, frightening, wild, intense fury—and honestly, it can feel that rough!
Now personally, having had to deal with this pose has made me far more equipped to deal with other types of pain in my life too. There are so many uncomfortable aspects within our day to day actions, thoughts and relationships. Learning to choose to move through the pain of Utkatasana, and training my body, mind and spirit to sit more deeply into it, fully expanding my breathe and finding the heart centre of my practice, I take a step towards integration of my whole being.
Acknowledging the discomfort of life, yet staying there a moment longer to allow the feeling, acknowledging it as real, feeling its presence fully; holding it…and allowing the pain to change, to pass… that is when I started to give mySelf the gift of complete presence and finding compassion.
Every day is a practice of life, whether we include yoga or not. Every day, we experience moments of discomfort.
Some days, the need to escape can be so intense and burning that it is difficult to think of anything else. But rather than leaving the discomfort, can you stay there a moment longer—a breath longer?
Can you find yourself fully present within the discomfort of being?
Can you sit deeply into the Utkatasana of life?
Yoga has taught me not to react but to embrace. Not to judge, but to feel.
Yoga has taught me not to fight but surrender. Yoga has taught me the art of living.
As we say in yoga:
“The divine light in me honours the divine light in you.”
Photo: Bruce Simons