At times I’m in awe of how the simple act of lifting my hips in Downward Dog, or resting my forehead on the mat in Child’s Pose, can make a difference in my life.
Each time that I step onto my mat, the poses help me become more fully aware in each moment. I notice how I enter or leave a pose, how muscles tighten or expand, how my breath flows, how I no longer fear results (well, I try not to fear results) but rather explore a pose with confidence and curiosity.
When I’m able to carry this awareness off my mat, I can detect a difference in the way that I stand while waiting on line at the grocery store or while walking through my neighborhood before starting work each morning. I notice how my spine feels straighter and more erect, my muscles more toned, my bones more aligned as a result of my yoga practice. I notice that I am more patient, less likely to lose my temper, more willing to see the world from another person’s point of view.
Recently, I noticed, too, how my yoga practice truly makes a difference in the world, how our yoga poses can influence the lives of people who are practicing on the mat next to ours or inhabiting another part of the world miles away. I learned this lesson last month when I joined my teachers, Jaye Martin and Rita Knorr, for a yoga fundraiser to benefit the people of Haiti.
We gathered together on our mats, almost one hundred yogis, in the grand ballroom of the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg. Even before the practice began as we warmed up, I could feel the ripples of energy pulsing off the mats into the room and beyond. With each pose, each breath, it felt like we were transmitting excitement, good will, and healing energy to Haitians across the sea, strangers who one day might benefit from the ripples of energy (and donations) that we were sending to Haiti’s distant shore.
On that day, I could see how our yoga practice helped us reach beyond ourselves. It showed us how to care for one another and how to set an intention of mindful compassion for ourselves, our friends, and our family, as well as for strangers who we might never meet but who we could touch with our hearts, if only we opened up to the possibility within each of us.
That is the power of yoga.
Practice Journal: How does yoga make a difference in your life? Can your practice help you become more aware of the ripples of compassion, hope, and faith that you send off your mat to inspire yourself and others? Can you tap into the power of yoga to bring about positive change in your life and in the lives of others? Write: 10 min.