who do you practice yoga for?
“Since I started doing yoga a few months ago, I feel like a new person. I want you to know that now I consciously try to be peaceful. Even when I’m not doing yoga, I think about what you say in class and I try to make a conscious decision to be peaceful. It’s not easy,” Erica told me one Monday after savasana. “I think: what would I want my daughter to see? Then I make a conscious effort to be peaceful.” Erica’s daughter is 18 months old and adorable. She wears twirly dresses and glitter shoes and her grin is obscured only by her big white pacifier. Erica works in a high-stress environment with pre-schoolers who are in the foster care system. ‘Peaceful’ would be the last word I would choose to describe her daily schedule. But Erica is motivated by a deep wellspring of love, which only outlasts her wellspring of patience once in a while.
Erica does yoga for her daughter. In a moment of silence at the end of every yoga class, Erica experiences a profound peace. Her intention, or sankalpa, of peacefulness acts as a ‘call to awakening,’ in her daily experiences. Without an intention, yoga poses are merely movements of the body. But with an intention, it is the backdrop to an inner awakening: we often feel like a new person.
New people have new habits: new responses to frustrations (traffic?), new reactions to stressors (children? bosses?), new judgments on failures (ending a relationship?), new answers to questions (life’s meaning and vocation?), even new opinions on collective actions (communal conflict?). Other people tend to notice these new responses and habits—transformation does not go unnoticed. Penny says that she channels all her work frustration into a big, big, big, yoga breath: just when she’s about ready to yell at her (much younger and slightly annoying) co-workers, she instead, remembers her yoga. And takes a big breath. And calms down. And responds like a leader and mentor should respond: with compassion.
Yoga simply makes you nicer. And people notice.
Author and yoga teacher Max Strom writes:
“To choose to transform, heal, and grow is the dynamic and noble path that so few take but all of us admire.” – M. Strom, There is no App for Happiness
In other words, when you change your life by becoming happier, healthier and more whole, people notice.
So my question is: who are YOU practicing yoga for?
Erica practices for her daughter: she wants her daughter to experience happiness, kindness and peacefulness in their household. Penny practices for her team at work: she wants to mentor and inspire her co-workers and manage her team with integrity.
Who do you practice yoga for? Ask yourself this question every time you practice. You breathe for yourself, yes. You breathe to regain balance, kindness and truth in your life. But you breathe for others too. For your grandson, because you want to be able to sit on bleachers and watch his baseball game. For your sister, because she annoys you so much you want to scream. For your co-workers, because without yoga you might go insane. For your husband, because you cherish his love even when he leaves all the dirty dishes in the sink and forgets to take out the trash. For your boss, because you wish her good health and good fortune, even if you find her work ethic absurd. For your community, because you wish for safe neighborhoods. For humanity, because you believe that peace is possible. You are breathing for hundreds of generations before you and hundreds of generations after you.
Who do you practice for?
Think about it and let me know,