What makes a good life? Is it having a lot of money? Having everything your heart desires? Traveling the world? What is good living? These are questions that I have and the self-help gurus, even psychology professionals would tell you that only the individual can answer those questions. I can understand that but it’s hard to tell the person who has limited financial means or severe mental illness to find that one thing they’re grateful for, one thing that made you happy today.
For those who seem open, I tend to send free resources to things that they might find interest, in hopes to provide support. This worked for me when a friend sent me information about My Vinyasa Practice and their offer of free yoga teacher training during the height of the pandemic. I wanted yoga teacher training and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, yoga teacher training and even yoga classes at a studio can be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, when I received the information, I was very excited for the opportunity. Especially as a mother, wife, and full-time employee; I needed teacher training that was flexible and accessible. I believe yoga should be accessible to anyone who wants to practice and the training is well. This provides more people the ability to find something just for them or something they could use to help others. Yoga has provided a glimpse into what good living means and I want to hold on to it.
When a person sees no way out of their situation, when they feel like they’re on the brink of despair, in a hole they fear they cannot get out of, these catchall statements lack pith. They are at best unhelpful, at worst harmful. So if you are the helping type, how do you help? Let the person know that you’re there. That you’re willing to listen. To have a good life seems almost mythical especially in our current world. Or has it always been mythical but we are blinded by youth or the stories our parents tell us? Or is our understanding of what a good life is unclear, muddied by life, an illusion placed on to us by others? For me, I am taking it one step at a time. Earlier this week, my husband happily declared “I changed the sheets and cooked! I have accomplished two things today, that is good!” And for some reason, that rung a bell for me, maybe the good life finding that one thing in your day. That if nothing else happened or you felt you did nothing, there was the one thing that you did.
The title of this post pays homage to a yogi that I follow on Instagram whom found me because many of my hashtags would include “#badyoga or #badatyoga”. In fact, I still am bad at yoga. I tend not to follow the status quo in my practice and even how I started yoga was not your standard introduction to yoga at the time. Now, it is very normal to practice yoga online. When I started, practicing online using YouTube was not exactly popular. With the appearance of COVID-19, yoga schools and yoga teachers are now adapting and have live classes online which has made yoga more accessible. This is an absolute boon for those like myself who do not have the time or funds to go to a yoga studio. Not to mention, fantastic for those who balked at the idea of going to a studio and feeling unwelcome due to the pretentious yoga teachers and their students.
The more I practice, the more I realize how ridiculous it is to focus on perfection. This is something I’ve repeated many times, progress not perfection. When referring to perfection, not saying one should ignore proper alignment or proper breathing. You want proper alignment so that you don’t hurt yourself but you don’t want to try to push your bodies into angles to look picture perfect. In doing so, you will hurt yourself. This goes for living life. When I push myself to perfection, it causes unnecessary issues. I end up doing too much, overwhelming myself, and inevitably burning out. Going slow is okay, taking detours is okay, and if there is no time limit, taking the process step by step. Sometimes, that even means starting over. I’m bad at yoga because I don’t care if I can do a handstand or a standing split or pincha. I don’t care if my hip is open just a little and not perfectly square. I’m doing what is right for me and going through my process. It is my practice and it is my life.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
J. K. Rowling
There is a lot of talk about “living your dreams” or finding your “life passion”. When I take a moment to think about it, I never had solid dreams or goals. I had wants with no real plan to obtain those wants. When people ask me now the question about my goals or “what do you want?” I tend to make up a socially respectable response to avoid the blank stare, the incessant questioning, or the fake understanding of my thought process. My actual dreams that I have in my sleep also provide no guidance, they tend to be an almost hilarious and at times nonsensical story about aliens or talking alligators.
Now that I practice yoga, I’ve found more clarity regarding my goals. Yoga allows me to tame my mind and it interrupts the chatter in my mind that leads to self-doubt or questioning if I’m missing something in life. It is where I find the seventh limb of yoga: dhyana. Concentration and meditation, a mind uninterrupted. Dhyana is to the final step to lead the yogi into the eight limb of yoga: samadhi. That supreme bliss, unity with the Universal Spirit. For me, it’s unifying the scattered pieces of my mind so that it can be clear to find oneness with God. It is finding my breath when I have been holding it all day, its finding my voice when I have been holding my tongue, it is stretching my body when I have been tensing it, it is my release.
Dreams are nice to have especially the good ones when you are asleep in bed. However, I want to find what is real within myself. I do want to know what goals I have that are not influenced by what I feel is expected of me or what goals I have been told to have by my parents and society. Yoga has helped me and continues to help me find my own way in life. My own path is my nirvana.
This is a question that I ponder daily, one that I have had my entire life. Who am I? This question leads to even further questions. Why am I here? Who was I before I got here? In my last post, I talked about breath (pranayama) and how I use it to bring myself into the present. However, I would be remiss if I ignore that it does not help me understand who I am just yet. I admire those who seem to know who they are and where they are going. At this stage of my life, I am still figuring that out and one would think I would know that by now. Sometimes, I wonder if I my life will just be a finite journey seeking the answer to that question.
The fifth limb of yoga seeks to help answer that question: pratayahara. In a basic sense, this is self-examination. For a yogi to self-examine, she must be in tune with her senses. This may involve withdrawing from external stimuli and in today’s modern world, there is so much external stimuli, it becomes so overwhelming and loud that it drowns out our internal stimuli. For me to “find myself” and I say that with tongue in cheek, I need to be able to hear myself and to hear myself, I need to tune out mostly everything else. I say mostly because I still need to work, feed my family, and pay attention to my son and husband. However, even with all that I have going on, I need to find the good in it all, the joy, and with that, I may be able to “find myself”.
Yoga is a spiritual experience. It is a conversation between my soul and my body. The asana or posture is the third limb of yoga. On the outside, the asana can appear as a beautiful display of strength and/or flexibility such as Vrschikasana I or scorpion pose (see header image). It can also appear as a very relaxed pose such as savasana. Both asanas are beautiful as the intention of the asana is to “reduce fatigue and soothe nerves” (Iyengar, 1966). When practicing asana, the yogi is mindful and focused completely on nurturing herself. Of course, we are human, so our minds tend to wander. When my mind wanders in yoga practice, I will fall out of a pose or start holding my breath. The more I practice, the more I find it easier to stay focused within.
Our bodies are to be respected as they are divine. The asana helps us to show respect to our souls that reside within our bodies. As a woman, there are days in which I look in the mirror and I like what I see. I like what I see externally and internally. The more I practice yoga, the more days I have like this as I recognize that God is within me and all around me. The asana of yoga helps me in making that connection, in understanding my own divinity. My mind is more peaceful because of my practice of asana, the third limb of yoga. It is more peaceful because the practice of asana increases health within the physical body. When your physical body is healthy, this affects your mind. Your physical body sends signals that says “Hey, everything is all good here” which leads your mind to respond by having clearer thoughts, being able to relax, or being able to be completely focused on tasks.
Yes, asana practice exercises your body but its purpose is not to make your body look good, its purpose is to make both your mind and body feel good to lead to acceptance of your own divinity. Isn’t that what we all want?