My hope for any yogi who finds themselves sitting in my yoga class (or any yoga class for that matter) is that they walk away with this sentiment…”how you do anything is how you do everything.” I know I’m not the first to say it and I really don’t know with whom to credit the quote, but I believe this is one of THE most important lessons to be learned from your yoga practice. I think this is the reason I am drawn to teach yoga because as soon as I realized it, I wanted everyone else in the world to realize it. Our natural inclinations, attitudes, reactions, thoughts, behaviors, actions, etc. are very simply brought into focus through yoga. The yoga studio can be viewed as a microcosm, with huge parallels drawn to life off of the mat. It is a literal classroom where you learn who you are, like, for REAL!
Example #1- Your yoga teacher cues bakasana (crow or crane pose), an arm balance where you may very easily feel like you could come crashing down onto your face. What are your first thoughts and/or actions? I taught this pose to my Level I class last week with the intention of shining a light on fear and self-doubt, highlighting the theme of how you do anything is how you do everything, and the parallel that can be drawn to any situation in life that may sprout fear and/or self-doubt. My point being, practicing bakasana shows you how you may react to life’s challenges with fear and self-doubt. Then, you continue practicing bakasana until you have conquered the fear and self-doubt and no longer feel them getting into the pose. You may also learn that good preparation and a working knowledge of the mechanics of the pose decreases or perhaps eliminates some of the fear and self-doubt. And then, you use that practice to begin conquering the same fear and self-doubt that may come up at work, in a relationship, or some sort of perceived crisis in life. OR maybe you aren’t fearful of bakasana, but maybe you get frustrated and hard on yourself that you can’t “do” it. Maybe you feel bad that you can’t “do” it so you don’t even try. Maybe you see the person on the mat next to you holding the pose for several breaths and feel a little jealous. Or maybe your wrists are hurting today and you should probably take it easy with the arm balances, but since you know you can “do” it you feel compelled to show everyone else in the room what you can “do”.
Example #2- You show up to your favorite yoga teachers class and in walks a sub. How do you react to that? Do you get up and leave (this has happened to me before when I subbed for a really popular teacher!) or do you go with the flow and realize that every yoga teacher can teach you something? Or it could be that there are a lot of beginners in class so the teacher has to take the level down a notch. Are you annoyed that the class is so slow? Or maybe you become impatient with all of the extra explanations and cues from the teacher. These are the days when you could just be appreciating the change in pace. You could just realize that this is what your body needed today and focus more on your alignment and breath. This can show you how you react to change in general. You can miss out on a lot in life by being rigid and resistant to change.
Example #3- You get into sirsasana (headstand) in the middle of the room for the first time in your 4 years of practice. You see that hard work and patience pays off. You learn that you are stronger then you think you are and that when you stopped wanting to prove yourself, your abilities were able to shine.
These are just a few little examples. Yoga shows you who you are…the good, the bad, and the ugly. It may be just who you are that day, in that moment…competitive, critical, self-conscious, cautious, careful, scared, lazy, resistant to change, impatient, hyper OR maybe calm, willing, patient, open-minded, spiritual, strong, determined, disciplined, adventurous. The list goes on. All of our qualities are highlighted by our yoga practice. And I’m not just talking about asana. All of the limbs teach you to understand your SELF better. The goal is not to be judgmental and hard on yourself if you discover something “negative”. It’s just that you are made aware and awareness creates action and change. We are all just works in progress.