In yoga classes all over the world, certain practices and norms of behavior will seep into your being, and how you live your life. Yoga, like any other practice, is a discipline, and requires your complete participation, endless enthusiasm and child-like curiosity. Surely you want to be a better person today than yesterday? So, if you are prepared to put the work in, yoga will help you on your way to becoming more, ‘Dalai Lama, ‘ – to becoming a happier, more joyful and grateful human being. Go on, get your yoga groove on.
1. Competition is for horses not yoga artists – ‘yoga is a work in, not a work out.’
At school I was an excellent but unwilling athlete. I simply hated competing, and I would stress and worry for weeks before an event. I eventually gave it all up completely to the annoyance of my teachers. And that’s one of the many things I like about physical yoga. You celebrate your uniqueness and you let go of competition, of comparing, and of trying to be better then anyone else. How can you compare two completely different bodies anyway? With yoga, you celebrate your gorgeous individuality and being YOU. When you focus on what you are feeling moment to moment, and turn your gaze inwards, you will also be more present in your life off the mat. You will enjoy the little things more and you won’t sweat the things that don’t warrant your attention. It’s a given that with a regular practice, you will become stronger and more flexible, but as a result of a regular practice, and not because you have pushed yourself or strived. The aim of yoga and a yogic life is total presence, absorption and acceptance of everything, exactly as it is, exactly as it is playing out in the present moment.
2. No need for speed. Be more snail.
I was born running. Through sheer habit, I’ve always done things quickly. I walked quickly, spoke quickly and ate quickly. I generally rushed around from one thing to another, in an effort to get where? – Nowhere. Lots of yoga styles are also super brusque, fast and mechanical, and IMHO do not allow sufficient time to breathe properly, let alone to transition safely between and within poses. As a chronic, back pain sufferer, I know only too well, how careless movements affect my back. Now, instead of rushing around, I choose to be more snail, to move in a more slow and controlled way, creating smooth transitions between postures. It’s not easier. In fact it’s more challenging, precisely because the movements are slower and rely less on momentum. If you’re a habitual rusher and a pusher, choose a yoga style, which emphasizes slowing your ass down, and caring for your body, your spine and your joints, both today and for the future. By moving more slowly in class, flowing gracefully, movement to movement, you will naturally do the same off the mat. There’s no better place to be, than right here, right now. Smell the roses, feel the breeze on your skin and go on a go-slow.
3. Don’t Be a Dick – Respect others, their differences and their space.
It often appears to me in this hectic world, that we have forgotten what life should be about. That life is a gift of love and joy, and that we should feel happy to be alive. With consumerism and materialism, we have become more selfish and more separated than ever. In a typical yoga class, however, we show love and respect for each other. We aim to arrive early, respecting the teacher and fellow yogi’s. We respect each others space and we neatly place back any materials used, considering who might use them next. We appreciate each other. We revel in each others differences and we celebrate how many different people can come together, in one space, to share an experience. Being more conscious of your conduct, impact and your effect on others in class, you will naturally show more respect and compassion, the cornerstones of yoga, beyond your mat.
4. No-one Likes a Clever-clogs. Be a humble bee.
There are so many things in life that can separate us, like language, religion, age and lifelong conditioning. Yoga celebrates all of that and brings us together to celebrate the joy of life, of being a human being ; of living on the same planet, with the same pressures, stresses and challenges. Physical yoga is a personal practice that you adapt to meet your daily needs. You enjoy and embrace the brilliance and intelligence of your body; it’s quirks, asymmetries and how it changes, through the different stages of life, and even through the changing seasons. A regular practice does lead the aspirant to be able to do more physically, but it also brings with it a calmness and a humbleness, that few other activities can. Although you might feel great when you conquer a posture you’ve been practicing for months or even years, your practice has taught you to stay present. Humility is a state of not thinking you are better than others. Being humble, modest and grateful are attributes of good yogis. In life too, you will be more humble and will empathize more with others, because you know that the bottom dollar is that we’re all just the same. Be loving. Be kind.