"On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure." - Bhagavad Gita.
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Many people stay away from yoga and tell me that "I'm just not flexible enough," or "I can no longer twist", or "some poses are too challenging for me."
But are we missing the point when we count ourselves out based on a self-imposed pre-requisite of strength and flexibility? Perhaps we can be more flexible in exploring yoga without fixating on whether we would succeed or fail in it. In yoga, we don't have to meet any performance benchmarks.
The practice is the practice itself.
If we are open to exploring yoga, we begin to discover that the practice will soften and strengthen us in ways that we have never imagined possible.
Physical strength and flexibility will come through a regular asana (physical pose) practice. At the same time, there is a softening through the surrendering of the ego and opening of the heart, and a strengthening of our personal resilience to face life's vagaries.
Beyond the physical, yoga as meditative practice and as a philosophy is an effort in reconnecting to our center, to our true essence of being. Every effort counts.
We'd find at this center the essence that is unafraid to be vulnerable, that abounds in unselfish love, that is immaculate; the essence that does not get stuck in petty pros-and-cons dilemma, and is free from prejudice, hurt and blame. It welcomes 'failure' as part of the process. It does not dissipate energy in constant worrying about the past and anxiety about the future.
This reconnecting with the true essence of being is the euphoria we sometimes get to taste at the end of a yoga class, or experience in life's moments as a sensation of flow, orgasmic bliss, or as a second wind.
IF there is one goal to this practice, it is to tap into this vast potential, to flow with this boundless energy.
Remember, effort is all that is needed. The practice is the practice.
The practice itself is the practice.
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For the past few months, I have been feeling on top of the world. Life’s great and nothing can get in the way of its greatness! I mentioned that I was leaving and friends and those from my practice circle have been really sweet, sending me all their well wishes. And today, I am sitting here in my sunny room looking out at the Manhattan skyline, thinking, wow, if you want it, you can really get it.
I have chosen to be here, and I am here, in New York – the mecca for ongoing innovation in yoga. One of the agencies was running a lovely campaign with the tagline: “For most people, it’s the trip of a lifetime. For you, it’s just a ride away.” I do feel privileged to be here, where mindfulness is hot with executives in Wall Street boardrooms and there is so much yoga happening in every street and in every park. I have been spending a lot of my time either practising with my favourite teachers or offering classes, building training curricula, and getting the privilege of being invited to co-lead the Sattva Retreats immersion to Kerala, India in 2016. Drop me a note if you’re interested to join me!
It has not been easy running all these while trying to put together a new life in a new city. But life is boring when it is easy. And how activity energizes and drives you, especially when it is your chosen activity. You set yourself free when you choose to do what you want, rather than what you think you have to want, because you have to be somebody in society, or because there is a mortgage to pay off or because you led yourself to believe that you need a certain level of comfort. These fall away and you know that you can live differently, and that once in a while, you can take a long-distance coach instead of a flight to keep within your new budget; and maybe you figure you need to downsize your possessions and finally get rid of the car, which you barely use, or move out of the full-serviced condominium that has given you a lot of borrowed joy in the past.
We don’t need that much to launch into freedom. Freedom itself is energizing. Just look at all our start-up friends sandboxing, brainstorming, and pitching away to investors in co-working spaces; it seems that at all that is keeping them going is mugs and mugs of coffee. Of course, it is the dream, and the belief in the realisation of it, that drives us all. So many of you who practise or have practised yoga with me also have such amazing stories to share, giving up a corporate job to follow your passion, be it farming, or starting a trendy restaurant, or travel writing, or working with underserved communities, or finally going for that Yoga Teacher Training that you have been eyeing for a while. Sure, many learn after a while that they are not making money from their new endeavours, but they are generating a lot of authentic joy from pursuing that which gives them meaning every day.
To a large extent, we are the ones holding ourselves back from our own happiness. You know that expansive feeling of joy that wells up when you practise a back bend? When you open up, you let space in; when you stop constraining your options with your preconceived notions of the good life, you let in new possibilities and a tangible connection with the abundance that surrounds you. When you align all your energy and efforts with the ultimate goal of life, you have the foundation for enduring happiness.
In concentration meditation, we practise gazing at a fixed point until everything else just melts away. The same thing happens when you set your gaze on your goal and retain that connection, unbroken, for a long time; everything else just melts away.
I hope you never give up that dream; if you have shelved it for a while, take it off the shelf, dust it and start meditating on it. Quite literally! Write it down and meditate on it every morning and evening. Start with 15 minutes and work it up from there. Notice how it changes the way you go about your week, how it resets what you prioritize in the day.
Be relentless, and when the result manifests itself, I want to hear your story!