Some days, life is best summed up in one four letter word:
If you thought I was about to say another one, you probably weren’t too far off the mark. Let’s face it. Being an adult isn’t as fancy-free as we once pictured it would be through our unknowing childhood eyes. Assuming the role of a mature and responsible person is not for the faint at heart. It requires a certain level of intellect, flexibility, vision, fortitude, and perseverance. A generously padded bank account wouldn’t hurt either!
That being said, there’s a whole host of things being a successful adult doesn’t require, which is precisely the heart of what I want to express today. We have in front of us an endless array of crutches (if you have a better word for them, write it in the comments below) that present the idea that we can achieve, maintain, or simply grow into adulthood if we just buy into them. Wine is a popular one. So is coffee. Lottery tickets, fashion magazine subscriptions, cigarettes, hard liquor, shopping sprees, junk food, illegal drugs…I could go through them one by one, but that’s beside the point. We already know their pitfalls. However, there’s one thing I’ve found infinitely more helpful in my adulthood quest than any combination of the aforementioned items: my own inner voice.
If you’re new to the practice of yoga, maybe you’ve considered it but haven’t actually tried it or you avoid the practice altogether, chances are that you view it as nothing more than a series of stretching exercises to aid in relaxation and physical fitness.
Very true! But there’s more…
The word yoga means union. And it’s here that we begin to understand the true heart and soul of this worthwhile practice. Yoga brings together the mind and body so that they work in harmony with one another. Yoga connects breath to movement so that we become better in tune with our surroundings. And lastly, yoga joins us to one another.
But…none of this makes much sense if you’ve never done it before. I mean, how can stretching with strangers accomplish anything more than perhaps make a person more flexible? The answer lies in what is required of the practitioner to succeed in carrying out the practice.
I started my yoga journey two years ago with just one goal in mind: to vastly increase my limited range of motion. Little did I realize that yoga was going to play a much larger role in my maturation as a confident, compassionate adult.
Sweating out my everything in a 105º room for eighty minutes proved to be the ultimate test in my ability to persevere despite enormous discomfort. On that first fateful day, my teacher told me to simply stay in the room if nothing else. It would get better over the course of a few weeks, she said. And she was right.
Over time, I adjusted. After the first month, I no longer felt like I was exercising in the seventh rung of hell. Strangely, the heat now feels completely normal. As for the numerous postures, they’ve become almost second nature. Am I more flexible after two years of consistent practice? Considerably. Am I as bendy as I’d like to be? Not yet. But that’s not my main focus now.
What I’ve discovered along the way is much more valuable than mastering a perfect middle split or a rigid hand stand in the middle of an empty room. I’ve found the ability to control my train of thought. You see, yoga doesn’t work when the mind runs amok. The muscles tighten, the heart races, the limbs get weak, and the whole thing falls apart, as any yogi who’s had a bad day can attest.
The same holds true in just about any challenging situation I’ve encountered in life off the yoga mat. Exhibiting calmness is the test of true inner strength. It doesn’t matter how tough I think I am, if I relinquish my serenity, I lose. If I reach for something outside myself to fix my situation, I also lose. Every. Time.
The optimal solution comes from one place, and one place only: from within. And it takes the form of unwavering tranquility. Throughout my yoga journey, a calm demeanor has become the hallmark of true strength and wisdom. Although, I’d be lying if I said I was a master at it. Truth be told, I still confront my own frustration regularly, and I still wrestle with doubt from time to time. Occasionally, I attempt to solve my problems with a strong pot of coffee instead of sound, meditative judgement. And all I can say is what my teachers have told me all along…it’s called a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.
So as far as those external crutches go, I get it. I’m human too. Some days it’s harder to avoid temptation than others. Some days, wine seems like the only good answer. My hope for all of us is that these days are the exception and not the rule. That for the most part, we rely on sound inner judgment to guide us along and not the million external quick fixes vying for our habitual usage. The day we truly believe that our best course of action stems from within will be the moment we find our freedom.