Work life balance is a phrase that is as trite as “drink 8 glasses of water”; both are known and spoken by everybody yet not quite mastered by anybody. Since achieving work life balance is more art than science, my pursuit for this all encompassing state of equilibrium led me toward yoga. It wasn’t long before I gathered my hair in a ponytail and myself into a yoga studio, hoping to walk out with newfound zen and a yogi glow. My quest for both is still very much on but I jest, and perhaps digress.
I still vividly remember my first yoga class: I tiptoed gingerly across the cold wooden floor, unraveled my mat and quietly placed two rectangular props or “blocks”, as I would later learn to call them, by the edges of my mat. What happened during the course of that one hour and over the next two years of my biweekly yoga practice has caused a directional shift in my outlook toward life.
I started yoga in the pursuit of a lean, flexible body and it was only when I ventured deeper into my practice that I witnessed how the benefits of this practice can be extrapolated beyond the confines of my mat. It’s less about holding virabhadrasana (Warrior Two) than it is about standing for what one believes in. It’s less about the deep bend of the knees and the expansion of the chest as it is about gazing with intent at the space in front of the middle finger of the extended hand to bring vitality, strength and control back to ones life. Likewise, vriksasana (Tree Pose) is less about the extension of the hands and the stability of the feet as it is about remembering to be humble: bending so as not to break. Our egos make us obdurate and we fall into rigid thought patterns; it’s only when we go back to our roots that we begin to grow, both mentally and physically. Isn’t it interesting that no matter how strenuous a yoga class becomes, instructors always end with savasana (Corpse Pose)? It is in this pose that the body spills to the ground, allowing the Earth to truly catch it. It is here that we let go off our practice and our day, surrendering to that which we trust will sustain us. Few know that while this pose is simple, it’s not entirely easy to execute, for giving yourself the permission to relax while being attentive to your body is a lot harder than it appears. Above all, it’s most important to remember that while inversions do make for great Instagram pictures, the benchmark to successfully practice yoga is nonexistent: your experience on the mat is entirely yours, and unlike that of any other being.
I now realize that the true learning happens in the nuances we often overlook: instances when we breathe deeper into a pose, the moment when we press our hands to our sternum and set our intention for the rest of the day, when we move through vinyasas and hold challenging asanas to create space within our bodies and most importantly, when we begin to look inward, for the answer always starts and ends at us. What surprised me most through my practice was my willingness to find comfort within discomfort - to truly feel the continuity of the human existence. The days, hours and even minutes that you spend on the mat bring you one step closer to yourself, for it is only by reaching within can you begin to witness how wholesome and complete you are.
Notice how the breath that goes in is slightly cooler than the breath that goes out. Take a second and simply breathe the next time you notice your heart palpitating slightly faster. Acknowledge that intention, awareness and all things worth having, already exist within you! The next time you breathe, acknowledge that yoga has found you and not vice versa.