Life Lessons From Yoga

As some of you know, I am on a brief hiatus from the studio and from New Mexico to work on a writing project. My husband Stewart and I are in Oregon and we have been doing lots of yoga and meditation. This weekend we attended a retreat in Charlton Oregon by Coos Bay’s Mossy Lotus studio, which inspired the subject of this blog.

Yoga creates great opportunities for our bodies and our minds every day, even on those days we do not practice. I was reminded in the various workshops this weekend how often yoga’s lessons can be applied as metaphors for life.

The founder of yoga, Patanjali, said asana (yoga poses, like those we do in class) was historically done just to prepare for meditation, which was in turn practiced to bring calm and focus to our lives, as well as to bring us closer to the divine. Patanjali did not tell us what our “divine” should look like, which is incredibly progressive if you think about it.

Patanjali also wrote the oldest known text on yoga thousands of years ago, which is called the Yoga Sutras. The Sutras is a list of short suggestions (or to-do’s) for yoga and life. Patanjali’s Sutras are worth reading, and many of his suggestions are still relevant today. The hope is that our yoga practice on the mat will help us become happier, better people off the mat. In that spirit, and roughly inspired by the Sutras, I offer a few yoga principles for our lives off the mat:

1. Be flexible and willing to change plans if need be.

2. Keep your chest up and your shoulders down. Show the world you are a yoga or yogini through your posture, mindset, and open attitude.

2. Be open in general. Open chest, open heart, open mind, as I always say in class.

4. Try something new as often as you have the chance.

5. See the beauty in everyone and everything. Look for it—it’s there.

6. Allow yourself to be inspired.

7. Allow yourself to be inspiring.

8. Try not to be competitive. For example, once in a while put just 60% into some poses (or tasks in life) just to show that you are flexible, that ego does not control you, and that the perfect is not the enemy of the good.

9. Use just enough energy as you need for a task, meaning don’t waste energy. In asana practice, I often say, take your shoulders out of this one, or relax your arms. If you’ve heard this, you know what I mean. In life’s tasks we often overexert, by getting involved in things that don’t require it, or fighting the tide. As I am learning here in Oregon, you can’t fight the tide!

10. Similarly, as much as possible, swim with the current rather than against the current of life.

10. Enjoy the space between two tasks, two poses, or two breaths. This is from one of my favorite of Patanjali’s yoga Sutras, in which Patanjali asks us to enjoy the space between the breaths.

11. Again, from a Sutra, enjoy that unique peace you find first thing in the morning and right before you fall off to sleep at night. It’s precious, don’t overlook it.

See if you can come up with more of these life lessons from yoga and if so, email them to me at martin@law.unm.edu or post them in the comments below. I will use them for a future blog! That is it for now. Namaste all, I miss you!

Nathalie

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