A Life Lesson (or Two) Learned from Yoga

I am a yoga devotee and (usually) proud of it. Largely due to yoga, I have adopted an evolving awareness and acceptance of my body’s capabilities, ways to keep body and mind healthy, as well as ideas that help me get along in the world.  But that’s not to say that I have all the answers or that I do not value, or even adopt, aspects of other forms of exercise, lifestyle or philosophy.

I’ve come to be suspicious of quick fixes, one-size-fits-all solutions, quotations and one-line “words of wisdom.”  For concrete thinkers, slogans can be deadly.

For concrete thinkers, slogans can be deadly. 

Let’s take the sage piece of advice, “live each day like it’s your last,” for example.  Most days, I read this as “make amends, extend friendliness to others, and make a positive difference in the world.”  But on other days when all seems like drudgery, I can see how someone might construe it to mean “throw all caution to the wind, spend all your money on frivolous things, and party like there’s no tomorrow!”

If slogans were meant to stand alone, scriptures for the various faith traditions would be one sentence long. 

Seriously, when it comes right down to it, slogans are not meant to stand alone.  If this were so, scriptures from the various faith traditions would be one sentence long.  Invariably, people need more explanation because they interpret a quotation or one-line catchphrase in the context of their own history and circumstances.

People interpret a one-line catchphrase in the context of their own history and circumstance.

But, we can convey a meaningful message by stringing a few key sayings together.  The word “yoga” is both a noun and a verb:  a state of such perfect balance that all appears still; and practices that lead to that balanced state.

yoga balancing rocks

In yoga philosophy, balance is a key theme: balance is the goal, at virtually every level and in almost every conceivable way.

But it also is very yogic to be attentive.

A noted meditation master says, “Treat your life like an experiment.”  (Yes, meditation is part of the yoga toolbox!)

Balance, attentiveness, experimental approach:  a worldview begins to congeal.

When you put these last three concepts together, you start to see a worldview congeal:  undertake routine and new endeavors alike with a view to enhancing equilibrium and see what happens.  Make adjustments and try again.  Like a scientist, use educated guesses to formulate your hypotheses with an intended effect of harmony, not chaos.  And observe the results, ready to make adjustments or even completely change tact!

As we move into fall, I invite you to make yoga out of everything you do, be it working at a desk, playing with children, running, eating, partying.  While honouring both yourself and all creation, experiment and then pay attention.

If you’d like to do this in a group with guidance, consider signing up for a class or inquiring about dropping in if you can’t make a regular commitment.

Revised from a community newsletter submission, 2008

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