Posted by: Bruce Black | July 1, 2017

Where Our Practice Can Lead Us

I begin my yoga practice each day without knowing where it will lead me, but sitting on my mat—just sitting—helps focus my attention.

Some days I may notice the way a shoulder aches or a hip joint feels stiffer than usual. Other days I might feel uncertainty about unfinished plans, or I might worry that I don’t have the strength to do some of the more challenging poses that day.

Through my practice, though, I’ve learned to let myself feel whatever I might be feeling in the moment—to allow the feeling to be whatever it needs to be—without trying to change the feeling or push it away or ignore it. Each pose gives me a way to recognize the feeling, acknowledge it, and let it go.

When I lift up a leg in Tree Pose and find myself wobbling and have to put my foot down after a few seconds to regain my balance, I might feel disappointment. Or I might feel I should have been able to hold the pose longer or lift my foot higher. Or I might find myself feeling anger, frustration, or sadness over not being able to do what others in my class can do.

But then, through the process of engaging with my body in the pose—of staying in the moment—I’ve come to understand that criticizing myself or letting negative thoughts overwhelm me only makes the pose harder. And I’ve learned not to berate myself for having such feelings but, rather, to show myself compassion, to let the feelings go, and to move on to the next pose.

This, then, is what yoga has taught me: feelings, whatever they might be—feelings of inferiority or superiority, disappointment or joy, anger or elation, frustration or calmness, sadness or happiness—are just feelings. They pass as quickly as clouds moving across the sky.

And though learning to let go of these emotions and thoughts took many efforts (and many falls out of Tree Pose and other poses), the process of learning to let go taught me, over weeks and months, how to show myself more compassion.

Showing yourself compassion, it turns out, is one of the consequences of cultivating a yoga practice. You gain self-awareness, and, in time, your compassion for yourself—and for others—deepens. Before you know it, your practice inspires you to feel compassion not only toward yourself and other yogis on the mats surrounding you, but for every living being on this planet, too.

It happens this way: self-awareness leads to self-understanding, and self-understanding leads to a sense of gratitude, which leads to a desire to express love, which in turn leads to an ability to show greater empathy for one’s self, as well as for those who are caught in the web of their own challenges.

Each time you step on your mat, yoga invites you to step into the present moment fully aware of your self and everyone else around you.

Each pose offers you the chance to swim in the sea of compassion that touches all living beings—both friends and strangers.

Each breath gives you the opportunity to become a person capable of feeling not only your own pain but also the pain of someone else’s misfortune or suffering.

Practice Journal: How does your yoga practice help you cultivate compassion? Has anything changed in the way you treat yourself and others since you began practicing yoga? List three ways that your practice has taught you to be kinder and more compassionate on and off your mat. Write: 10 min.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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