What Yoga Can Teach You About Life

What Yoga Can Teach You About Life.

I watched an interview with Sean Corn a while back where she discussed the connection between the yoga mat and life. Sean explained that how you practice yoga translates into how you live your life. The two are connected. What you need to work on in life often expresses itself on your mat during a yoga class. For example if you are someone who pushes themselves too hard, injuring yourself in yoga as a result (e.g. a pulled muscle) you probably take on too much in life, put too much strain on yourself outside of the yoga studio. If you often give up during a class, tell yourself that this pose is “too hard” or that you are “too weak” you most likely defeat your own self in the outside world as well. Maybe you make excuses for why you can’t make it to the studio, putting everyone else’s needs before your own.

Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, and this union between the practice of yoga and the practice of life is one of the reasons I have fallen deeply and consumingly in love with the practice of yoga.  The practice of Yoga doesn’t always refer to the postures themselves, but rather everything else that goes into the postures (e.g. the mental strength, the need to have a connection to your breath, proper hydration and nutrition, the connection between your mind and body)

I recently finished the book “Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga” by Benjamin Lorr which was all about the author’s immersion into the Bikram Yoga world. This book was soo wonderful. It was funny, honest, insightful and informative. It was entertaining from cover to cover, and there were often times when I would laugh or gasp aloud from what I had read. Lorr made connections between small experiences/concepts and larger existential questions.

In “Hell-Bent” there is one part where Lorr describes a particular Bikram class he took. A large, linebacker-type man was taking a class for the first time and appeared to be suffering and wheezing, right before bolting for the door. The teacher, Esak, (Esak is a Bikram champion, and celebrity of sorts in the Bikram yoga world) stops the linebacker right before he is about to open the door and exit the studio. Esak tells the man that he’s free to go but has a choice. He explains that “Sometimes your yoga is in the postures. Today, your yoga is recognizing that you have a choice”

Esak turns to the class and orders them to “stop listening! Stop thinking! Don’t imagine his class is easier than yours. Don’t flatter yourself with your effort. Right now, this is the person working the hardest in this class. He is getting every benefit he can.”

For the linebacker, his yoga that day was to simply recognize that he had a choice whether or not to leave the hot room. His yoga was to work on the mental aspect of the practice, because that was the issue that arose for him on the mat that day.  Esak explained to the class that even if they were doing the postures perfectly, if they weren’t “putting the same effort into it” they weren’t getting the benefits from the yoga.  Yoga isn’t about the postures, it’s this “union” between the mat and life, mind and body, you and the universe. It’s about doing “work”, and maybe your yoga for now is just to identify what your “work” should be, what issues you may need to work on. Maybe your yoga is to back off and let yourself sit out once in a while, or to stop comparing yourself to the other yogis in the room, or to become comfortable with the way your body looks in the mirror during class. Benjamin Lorr explains that

“It’s a funny thing that way. Someone standing and looking very impressive in the mirror and someone sitting hunched over doing almost nothing. Same yoga.”

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