Yoga is a way to stop the incessant runaway train of time. By focusing our attention on the breath, we bring ourselves fully into the body, and experience the bliss of the present moment. Through practice and repetition, we eventually learn to still the endless chatter of the mind. In this way, Yoga is a chance to take a well-deserved break from our outward-looking selves, and turn our attention and focus onto our inner selves. Our practice can feel like a delicious “time-out” from the madness and chaos of our noisy lives.
However, Yoga is not an escape. Rather, it involves leaning in to our deepest selves, even that part of ourselves that we generally prefer to keep hidden from others. Sometimes this can be challenging, not only on a physical level, but also on an emotional and spiritual level. We are constantly being asked to face more and more of our true essence, and to shed more and more of what does not serve us or others. Along with the physical freedom that comes from increasing strength, flexibility and openness, another kind of freedom comes: liberation from the delusion of separateness, of inferiority, superiority, and of the mask of the ego.
It can be scary to let others see our true selves. It can be scary to decide not to conform to what society dictates you are “supposed” to look like, act like, be like. But we are given only one life, and to live it to appease others or to seek their validation is to live in a constant state of distress. Opening ourselves to vulnerability is one of the many benefits of a consistent practice. I spent a good deal of the first year of my yoga practice crying in Savasana, the final resting pose. I learned to always have kleenex next to my mat. This phase has passed, but it’s a natural and healthy release. We are all under a lot of pressure: to perform, to achieve, to “make” something of ourselves. Rarely are we valued simply for being. Yoga is the practice of valuing yourself, for breathing, for moving, for showing up onto your mat, and for being fully inside the gift of the present moment.