For a long time it was a running joke in my family that no matter your ailment yoga could help with that.
Over time everyone understood so it was no longer necessary to say it out loud.
Unfortunately yoga doesn’t help with everything.
In fact, practicing asana doesn’t in and of itself make anything go away.
And, the point isn’t to make things go away.
The point is to be with whatever is.
Become more skilled at living your life
As Alanna Kaivalya says in her new book, “yoga doesn’t make your life better or easier but it does make you better at living your life.”
That means “bad” things will still happen. The practice starts when we choose how to react. Committing to a consistent practice helps us make wiser decisions so that all the stuff that happens to us in our life doesn’t become dramatized, blown out of proportion, or a distraction.
This way of thinking doesn’t reward short-term results. This is why yoga doesn’t work so well as a 4-week program or a 12-day challenge, even though they are fun and motivating. Creating an event around yoga creates the assumption that there will be results. While we may indeed feel better, the long-term life-changing aspects of yoga are experienced on a much more subtle level that are hard to describe with words.
Karma Yoga and serving others
In listening to a podcast yesterday, it struck me how outwardly successful, funny, and endearing an older gentleman sounded as he talked about his job as a celebrity manager. He took so much pride in his job to be in service to the artist. It wasn’t about him or about making as much money as he could. He devoted his entire career to making other people incredibly famous. In fact, he saw countless times what fame did to people and shunned the spotlight himself in fear of what it could or would do to him.
The Bhagavad Gita talks about this service and devotion to someone else, society, and your dharma, or purpose in life. It makes you so happy when you go to a restaurant and you get a really good server who absolutley loves his or her job and makes it known. To really serve with all your being is to experience a state of yoga and bliss.
Who are you serving? Who do you want to serve? There is no right or wrong answer and it doesn’t have to be noble. Serving your kids or your husband are equally important as serving patients as a doctor or students as a yoga instructor.
Detaching from expectations
As you find yourself in sticky situations, practice not because you’re trying to make the sticky situation go away but because you’re confident that your practice will help you better deal with all the sticky situations as they arise. Expecting that there will never be challenges in your life is fruitless. Focus instead about how great you’re going to be at moving through those situations when they arrive.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t get to express or feel emotions like anger, anxiety, and irritation. This is just as much a part of the experience as experiencing joy, happiness and ease. And, you can have both anger and ease at the same time. Learning how to hold both emotions at once is why we practice.
Getting a stronger core or toning our arms isn’t going to help us be any better at holding two emotions simultaneously. The practices that will help us get there are the ones that give us space to breathe and feel and give us permission to explore the deepest parts of ourselves.
Be willing to show up, expect nothing, and trust that you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing.