Saturday, April 11, 2009

#36 Life Lessons

During my fairly strenuous and serious 90" Anusara yoga classes, lessons are learned with grace and sometimes a giggle. At first, the laughter surprised me, but I soon realized that what is experienced and learned in yoga, are life lessons to be lived outside of the classroom too. Below, I want to share some of the amazing lessons I've learned so far, and I've thrown in a giggle or two to keep it real.

See The Good First
I learned this on my first day of class. The instructor asked for a volunteer to stand in the front of the room and then asked us what we saw. One person commented on the fact that one shoulder seemed lower than the other and another student pointed out that her feet were not hip width apart. The instructor then explained to the class that when you teach Anusara yoga, you should always see the good first. She said things like, look at how nice she looks in her yoga "outfit", and look at how firm and strong her arms are. As she continued sharing the volunteer's other positive attributes, she was gently easing her into the "correct" alignment. The lesson: see the good first and then with kindness, an open heart and a gentle hand, help the other person become "aligned". I left that 5 hour class having learned so much, but this lesson has really stayed with me. I find that now before allowing my inner judge to jump right in, I try to take those first moments to see the good, especially when judging myself. I also try to do this with my kids. I try to gently nudge and direct them before I start yelling and screaming. I'm told yoga is a process. So is parenting.

Celebration of the Heart
Poses in Anusara yoga are heart-oriented. This means that the poses are expressed from the inside out. When moving into and staying in a pose, the energy should come from inside [your intention, your attitude and your heart/desire] and not from pushing and moving your muscles to make them do your bidding. In Anusara yoga [the lesson] attitude is always more important than performance, strength or flexibility. Consciously breathing into the pose, letting go of those controlling thoughts and stretching your limbs is a wonderful sensation. When you've attained the pose and are in perfect alignment, and can breath easily, it's like winning the 100 yard dash. As for both yoga and the run, it's more about the enjoyment of getting there, then the actual winning of the race. It's like that saying: 'it's not the destination, it's about the journey'. This opening of your heart works wonders too when your destination is Florida, but you can't begin your journey because foul weather has postponed your flight for the 2nd time in 4 hours. Open your heart and breath.

Intertwined with one's attitude and intention in yoga is willpower. In Anusara yoga, willpower is defined as that balance between the ability to surrender and self effort. How many times have we cursed ourselves for our lack of willpower? For me, there were years of going to bed berating myself for not being able to stay on my diet, for not staying in control. If we look at this definition, however, willpower is so much more than controlling one's behavior. It is the blending of two totally different actions whose outcome [the lesson] allows for the ability to be able to carry out one's wishes, plans or decisions. Isn't this what we all want to do? It seems that whenever I am in control of my eating, it's the combination of knowing that this is good for me [the surrender] as well as having the right foods in my house and making the right decisions when out of the house [self effort]. Of course willpower shmillpower. If there was a magic pill, don't think I wouldn't be the first in line!

Good Yoga Teachers
I read in the Anusara teaching manual that a good yoga teacher will have [the lesson] a soft heart, a sharp mind and a vibrant body. This too is something that I would like to attain outside the yoga studio. Being tender in the way you interact with people makes them feel good. We all know that making someone feel good, giving charity, helping out a friend ALWAYS makes the giver feel just as good as the receiver. As for the sharp mind, I've been working on that [a la blog 29, Exercise Boosted by Aging]. Learning yoga and the Sanskrit words and prayers is very brain stimulating. I also continue to do my crossword puzzles, but now I stop to look up words when I don't know them. However, that vibrant body thing is an illusive concept. Sometimes I feel vibrant and healthy and thin, and other times, not. I believe this is felt by all women nearing 50 with hormones running amok; body, bones and skin doing things beyond our control, and gray hair growing in places that, well, the sun don't shine [as I've been told of course]. Perhaps the word zesty....

As a yoga class begins, you state your intention in your heart for "that" time. This is important, but so too is the end of class. At the end of each class we lay on our mats, close our eyes, and relax into stillness. It is in this pose, Savasana, the corpse pose, that we draw inside and put our bodies at ease and allow thoughts to float in and out without judgement nor reaction. I am sure that these lessons will make me better at yoga, but [the lesson] I hope too that they make me a better person. So, after 90" of handstands, almost near splits and holding my body in positions that 10 year olds do without blinking an eye, I consider this my favorite pose.


Quote of the day: "The ultimate result of shiedling men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools" Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher

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