As the year is almost over and trying to feel celebratory during the holiday season, I can’t help but reflect and think of the year and myself. Seems the classes I’ve taught toward the end of the year have kept a similar theme of reflection and given me reminders of my personal Yoga practice, both, on and off the mat. In some of my recent classes I either started or ended the classes by reading a portion of the preface in the Yoga Sutras of Patangali (by Sri Swami Satchidananda). I’m not sure why I initially turned to that particular page as I’m much further along in my reading of the Sutras. Though I’m always reminded of how my reading of the Sutras and The Bhagavad Gita (by Sri Swami Satchidananda) will always be at the beginning stages. Every time I open those books I could take away something new, even if reading the same page I’ve read before. In a sense, I’ll always be a beginner in Yoga. Although that may seem odd, it really is true. The universe, our own Self, is in a constant state of change. Every minute we’re becoming someone new and my Yoga practice is always new with new challenges, whether physically, mentally, or in my heart.
“Practice is the most important factor in Yoga.
Let us know that all these ideas and practices are there to help us forget our personal selfishness and broaden our minds more and more…. It’s very simple. Be good and do good and the entire wisdom will be yours.
Every day let us check our progress and see that we grow a little better. Every day should elevate us a little, broaden our attitudes, reduce our selfishness and make us better masters over our own body, senses and mind. This is the kind of Yoga that will really help us.” -Yoga Sutras of Patangali by Sri Swami Satchidananda)
Christmas is a day away (my family celebrates on the 24th) and this year isn’t as jolly as last year. As the plans we made have changed. Last year my mom and grandma came to visit me and we enjoyed the Christmas lights in the town and went to see the Nutcracker. This year my poor grandma fell a few weeks ago and due to that couldn’t visit during Thanksgiving. She was getting better and was sent home, only to be sent back to the hospital. She is back home again. I arranged subs for my Yoga classes or cancelled them and drove up to see her and my mom. I had gotten a Charlie Brown Christmas tree last weekend, but due to the unforeseen circumstances Charlie is not decorated and I didn’t get the chance to bring my Menorah out during Hanukkah. (I like to celebrate all the holidays.)
As I am now with my mom and grandma, my heart goes out of both of them. My poor grandma is struggling with a failing body, while my mom is struggling balancing work and taking care of my grandmother. I struggle feeling helpless as there isn’t much I can do to help. This entire situation reminds me of many things. It reminds me how important Yoga is for our BODY. A good example of how Yoga helps someone’s body is Tao Porchon-Lynch. She is (now) a 94-year old Yoga Teacher. I met her during a conference earlier this year. She is truly inspirational. She said to wake in the morning and tell yourself IT WILL BE A GOOD DAY and to SMILE a lot and SMILE at others. She never would listen to a doctor when she had an injury and they told her she couldn’t do this or that pose. She would PRACTICE and eventually gained her strength back.
Now that my path has brought me to Yoga, I realize it is vital for me (and anyone) to have some sort of Yoga practice. I’m not saying everyone should do intense asanas. My Yoga Guru, Ranjitha Sandeep, has always taught me, the basic Yoga poses are the most important. I don’t think I totally understood this until recently. Though seems a lot of what I learned during my Yoga Teacher Training with Ranjitha at Yoga Sutra for Life I don’t completely understand until when I experience it or maybe when it is my time to truly understand it. Spending 15 minutes a day doing some basic asanas will strength your body, mind, and heart. It will also loosen up your muscles and body. It will stretch you where you need. It will massage your inner organs and cleanses toxins out. It will open up your mind and heart. I could go on about all the benefits of Yoga, but basically when practicing Yoga you will get out of it what YOU need. And for all of us that NEED could be something different.
Eventually all us, God-willing, will get old. My grandma is now in her mid-80’s and, unfortunately, with a failing body. I can’t help but wonder, if she had a Yoga practice, could her suffering that she is experiencing now have been prevented? Although that question can never be answered, I would like to believe it could have. Yoga helps balance. So it is very possible with better balance she would not have fallen and broken her arm. And maybe she would have recovered better from sitting in a hospital bed for days if her body was stronger before entering the hospital. Although we’ll never know for sure if Yoga would have helped her, I’m sure have a Yoga practice would not have hurt her.
As far as my personal practice, I remember my teacher, Ranjitha, and other teachers warned me to not teach too many classes as it could drain my energy and I may not find time for my personal practice. Well, that started to happen late this year. I love teaching Yoga and sharing what I learned through my Yoga Teacher Training and continue to learn to my amazing students. Though as I reflect on the year I need to be more cautious to not let my personal practice on the mat suffer.
Lately my neck has started bothering me a great deal again. I think it is partially due to sleeping wrong, then partially to pushing myself too much during an intense workshop, partially to not paying as much attention to my body while I teach, and partially due to stress I’m experiencing lately. Stress with my grandma and other personal stress. Yes, there is a TRUTH when people tell you your stress will create physical pain. I always tell my students this. And I know I’ve experienced this before, but now that I am experiencing it again, I am reminded even more how connected our Mind, Body and Heart are. I started acupuncture treatments again and my acupuncturist, Dr. David Karlovich, noticed extreme tightness in my back and shoulders, although I went to him for my neck. Then I had a massage and my massage therapist, Rachel, noticed my shoulders and hips jutting forward. Although I’m sure a lot of this is due to the factors I mentioned above, I realized that maybe a bigger part of my pain and misalignment is due to my emotional stress lately. We hold our emotions in our hips, so it makes sense that my hips are out of place and everything above my hips is getting out of balance too. Hips openers!! Yes, hips openers are something I need to focus on in my personal practice. See how the MIND, BODY, and HEART all are intertwined?!
So this all brings me back to the Yoga Sutras and why PRACTICE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN YOGA. Constant and consistent practice is necessary and beneficial for my (and your) MIND, BODY, and HEART. Again, you don’t need to do 60-75 minutes of Yoga day if you don’t have time. Maybe just 15 minutes a day of basic Asanas. Strengthen your body to strengthen your mind and heart. Loosen and stretch your body to open your mind and heart. Twist your body to cleanse your mind and heart. What our parents and music teachers told us as kids is true, Practice, Practice, PRACTICE. We may, as I feel I have recently, fall out of the wagon, but simply CATCH YOURSELF and bring yourself back to your Yoga practice. And that practice includes OFF THE MAT, just as much as ON THE MAT. Yoga will bring your MIND, BODY, and HEART back to BALANCE.
I wish you a very happy and peaceful holiday season and a healthy New Year! Set your intentions, but surrender to the outcome.
Karin aka Shanti Om