They say, “Live in the moment!”
They say, “Rules are meant to be broken.”
Even yogis say, “Go to your edge.”
But, what happens when living in the moment and breaking your own rules push you past your edge?
That’s when it’s time to re-center yourself and remember that as long as no one got hurt, wherever you are is okay and you’re perfect just the way you are — and there’s nothing like a good yoga practice to help you do so.
It’s easy for us to lose ourselves sometimes, to get caught up in the moment, and to behave in a way that maybe we’re not proud of. I don’t care if you’re 21, 31 or 41, we’re all constantly trying to figure out who we are and where we fit into this crazy world. Life is a bit of an experiment. Sometimes you’re successful in proving your hypothesis and sometimes you blow up the lab — or at least cause a little bit of smoke and flames. When this happens, it’s so easy to beat ourselves up, to hide under the covers, or to blast Pink or Kelly Clarkson tunes (not that I know anything about that… ). But, I’m here to tell you, that’s not the answer and all it’s going to do is push those emotions further down.
So, here are my suggestions.
1. Roll out your mat. Just do it. And sit. Close your eyes and breathe. I mean really breathe. Long, deep breaths. Challenge yourself to breathe in for a count of six and out at the same depth and length. Turn your eyes in to the third eye. Focus on the breath and forget the thoughts that have been swirling around in that head of yours.
2. Move. Get the energy flowing. It starts with sun salutations, or even half sun salutations. Just something to open the energy channels that are probably pretty blocked at this point. Start building internal heat.
3. Open your heart. As if just getting yourself on your mat wasn’t hard enough, let me be the first to warn you. This is really hard.
Today I did something that seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, but it was super hard – and even physically painful. Lie down on your back and place a block on its edge at the tip of your shoulder blades. With your arms out to the side, try to relax your shoulders towards the earth and feel your heart open. With every exhale, feel your shoulders relax more and your heart continue to open. Be in the moment.
4. Continue moving through your practice with attention given to opening your heart as much as possible. You can do this in relatively simple positions like downward dog or even lunges as well as more advanced postures like backbends.
5. Figure out where you hold your tension. Is it in your thighs? Your hips? Your back? Breathe into that spot and get the energy flowing!
There are not many guarantees in life, but one thing I do guarantee is that if you do this, you will feel better. You will remember that rules are random. They’re machinations of our mind and sometimes they’re necessary, but sometimes they can also make us feel as if we’ve done something wrong, when we’re just doing what felt right at the moment. Accept yourself. Love yourself. Yoga will help you do that.
You can’t log on to Pinterest or Facebook without getting bombarded by inspirational quotes. Social media becoming a tool to spread good will and encouragement. But, here’s a question to ponder — why do people post those quotes? Is it because they really want to share the positive energy with others, or are they doing it for themselves in the vein of ‘write it down make it happen’, or is it for a sense of accountability? After all, if you’re going to blast it to the universe that you’re this spreader of positivity, you’d darn better be positive!
I suppose the answer is, all of the above.
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who tends to post more than a few of these feel-good messages. She explained that her Facebook timeline is usually a pretty good indication of the type of day she’s having. The more motivational messages, the worse the days she’s probably having. Her theory here is that if she puts it out there, the words serve as a source of encouragement in her own mind.
We went on to talk about her bad days, and specifically something she posted recently about giving someone else the power to ruin her day.
This is where the yogi in me kicked in.
I suggested the idea that just as somebody else’s behaviors are taken with a certain meaning and given meaning based on our own thoughts, so too are motivational quotes. We are drawn to and assign maning to these quotes based on our own thoughts at that moment and how they can apply to our own lives. All of this is counter to the teachings of yoga about non-attachment.
Yoga Sutra 1.12 says:
Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah: These thought-forms are mastered through practice and non-attachment.
Explained, this says that it is through two things, (1) the practice of yoga and (2) the practice of non-attachment, that we are able to control the rippling thoughts of the mind. In other words, if you can separate yourself from action that take place outside yourself, then you can gain control of your mind and ultimately reach a state of peace – or samadhi.
Of course, nobody is saying non-attachment is easy. Sometimes just putting happy thoughts in our heads and even posting them on facebook seems a whole lot easier! But, for one, this is temporary, and, second, it’s really just sort of a band-aid and doing nothing to actually help you deal with the reason you need encouraging thoughts.
Here’s another way to think about non-attachment. It’s the idea of reality versus our story. Something happens, and we assign meaning to it. In the case of a comment or a shrug by someone else, it’s usually a negative meaning. In the case of positive affirmations, it’s a meaning that encourages us to cheer up and think happy thoughts. Either way, the meaning is colored by our minds.
The idea of non-attachment takes the meaning out and allows us to look at whatever event is driving us to the affirmation as simply an event, void of meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying affirmations are bad. In fact, they’re great. They serve a wonderful purpose in helping us average humans who still struggle with non-attachment, find positivity in challenges. And the fact that they’re blasted all over Facebook with people sharing positivity with others is super encouraging. But, what I am saying is that if we’re seeking the words of others as a way to find happiness, well, that’s about as bad as looking to others to find happiness within ourselves.
And with that, I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou, that, yes, I applied meaning to and it seemed apropros: