by Sharon Friesen
Last weekend my family and I set out to go exploring. We rode our bikes from our house near UBC to Stanley park. I hadn’t been on my bike all winter and as I was riding along, I remembered how much more you see when you’re on a bike. Spring was currently in full bloom and beautiful. I passed by a row of townhouses completely covered in ivy and wanted to point this out to say to my daughter “Look at all the ivy”, but I didn’t. Passing through cherry blossoms, I again had this urge to say to her “Look at all the blossoms covering the sky”, but again I stopped myself, and I’m glad I did, as she noticed these all on her own and made her own discoveries.
To me, yoga is like this. Teachers lead me through an asana, show me where to go, but after some initial guidance, they also let me discover and feel the asana for myself. Each one of us experiences something different. When we discover something for ourselves we become more confident and self sufficient. We learn to trust our instincts.
I like to read. I can sit for long periods of time, reading easily about yoga, reflections on yoga, or memoirs of a yogi. But reading is only helpful if I take a little at a time, reflect on it or practice it. This time of reflection or practice, leads to stronger integration of what I’ve read and it then becomes part of my motivation.
In his book, The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar says the following:
“Yoga is eternal. It is evergreen and timeless. It is the answer to the infinite stresses modern day life brings us. Yoga brings balance to our lives, calms the restless mind, and brings us to a point of complete quiet. It is then that we discover our true selves.”
I’ve discovered through experience that relaxation is an important part of going to that true self. And I value relaxation much more now, since practicing yoga.
When I started teacher training, I realized very quickly how much there is to learn. I felt tension as I aimed for perfection in each and every pose and forgot about the breath. Breath is part of relaxation, in the asana and during the day. As I’ve been thinking about discovery, I’ve been wondering if I can also think about relaxing as I focus on other details in the asana.
Mr Iyengar continues on to say the following:
“We are instinctively caught in a web of violence, anger, and greed. It is natural then that these instinctive weaknesses lead us to act violently directly, indirectly or because of the pressures of society. The practice of yoga transforms or changes these instinctive weaknesses. They are not eradicated easily but they are certainly minimized. It is then that a person’s life changes for the better in the art of living. He looks in a different direction, from the direct perception of growth, both mentally and intellectually. Yoga allows us to reach the goal of life that is to live worthily.”
When I practice Iyengar yoga regularly, it has the effect of lifting me for the day. The day feels more positive, more centered and I feel happy for what I have.
On days when I get too busy to practice, I compare myself to others and have a tendency to focus on what they have that I don’t, or focus on their negative characteristics and what I dislike about them or even question their level of knowledge.
When I look at myself and at others I have to remind myself that we’re all human and we all have negative aspects. Confronting or even admitting our negative aspects takes an amount of work. It takes practice and time to gradually make better choices based on new understandings.
When I was growing up, my parents and my community expected me to follow the rules set by the authority, whether it was them or the cultural community. I really appreciate that in yoga, you are encouraged to explore, discover and find out for yourself. Discovery allows you to reflect, learn, evolve and build your own inner knowing.