But words of wisdom easily turn into clichés. “Children grow up quickly” and “Be thankful for your health” are words that make people think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I know.” But isn’t it different when you learn these things through experience? Ask anyone who is in remission from cancer if they are thankful for their health. Ask any grandparent if children grow up quickly. We can learn things by knowing the words, but knowledge can go so much deeper. You know when you have achieved a deeper knowledge of a lesson when you start living differently because of it.
I recently deepened my knowledge of yoga to the point that it’s changing my yoga practice and my life. It happened when I attended a four-day yoga workshop, taught by highly esteemed, nationally and internationally known yoga gurus. It was an absolutely amazing experience.
This is where I truly learned that one of the best parts of yoga is that it offers opportunities to become aware of what occurs in our body. Challenging poses make it easy to be aware of the muscles used as we attempt them. But there are many subtleties that we can experience if we simply pay attention. For example, have you ever noticed how it feels when your shoulder blades slide over your back ribs when you move your shoulders? Did you know that if you press your feet deeper into the earth, it makes you stand taller? These are examples of things that are brought to awareness in yoga.
Yoga, at its best, can be an investigation and exploration of the happenings in your body when you make even a slight change to your position. It creates fun and excitement when you have an “ah, ha!” moment, learning that pressing through the ball mound of your big toe can make your knee feel better, or squeezing your shoulder blades together opens your chest.
Another deepening of a lesson I received from the workshop is that yoga should be a practice of preparing the body, by making it strong and flexible enough, to easily move into a pose, rather than forcing the body to do what you want it to do. Isn’t that a great life lesson, as well?
Yoga can be completely different things to different people, but let me tell you what it’s not. It’s not a religion, though it may deepen the beliefs you already have. It’s not simply exercise, though you might get in better shape because of it. It’s not just for weirdos, though you may start using words like, “allow,” “notice” and “breath.”
The poses are pretty consistent no matter where you learn them, but the approach can vary considerably, depending on your teacher. Try a few different teachers so you can choose the one you resonate with. Enjoy the exploration so you, too, can deeply learn the wonderful lessons that yoga has to offer.