Look at the comments under any yoga pose selfie on social media. There's almost a guarantee that someone will take it upon themselves to criticize the alignment. "The leg should be straight!" "Why is that knee bent?" And on and on. Even for seasoned yogis, it's easy to forget that every yoga posture is always a work in progress. That’s yoga!
When I first started practicing, I was so bound up that getting anywhere near proper alignment felt like an accomplishment for me. My advice? Let go of what the posture looks like and focus more on what it feels like. It’s not about being sloppy, by any means. I’m simply suggesting that when you find your edge with your best possible alignment, stay there. Work with that. Notice how every single tiny sensation feels and sit with it. Let go of the mental need to go further, to push past your edge, or to be perfect. Seeking your best alignment and working within the parameters set by your body is the key to lessening your risk of injury. Remember that we are always a work in progress, even when our alignment looks perfect. It is always a practice.
Turning away from our reflections in the mirror and allowing ourselves to dig into how the yoga pose feels is important, and it also happens to be a great metaphor for our lives off of the mat.
So often we get caught up in an image of what our lives are supposed to look like. We chase after the scholarship, the wife, the kids, the cars, and the white picket fence, or the downtown high rise apartment and the corner office, or whatever society standard we’re trying to match. We tell ourselves that we’ll be happy when our lives are picture perfect. We spend all our time chasing these goals, never pausing to consider how it all feels - whether we are truly happy within ourselves.
Truly happy people do not overly value their possessions. How their lives look on the outside is of much less importance than how they feel about the lives they are leading on the inside. When we live in anger and blame, or feeling inadequate or unlovable, we need to ask ourselves what it is about our current situation that we are unable to accept. Are our concerns about appearances making us unhappy? It doesn’t mean that these feelings aren’t justified! But, like all feelings, they are temporary. How long we decide to remain in this unhelpful state is truly up to us.
So much of how our lives look is beyond our control. When put value in the appearance of our lives, we give those circumstances control of how we feel. Learning to find peace in any situation allows us to better deal with the difficult times in life and truly enjoy the best times. We learn to surf the waves, rather than be tossed around by them.
Times of loss can make this glaringly clear to us. When we lose a job, a house or even a loved one, we see how life tends to happen to us and how certain things are absolutely out of our control. No one is getting out of this thing alive. If we continue to focus on how our life suddenly looks different, we will drive ourselves into misery. Instead, we should learn to let go of the images and constructs we have created and begin to listen to our gut, our inner selves, that place of knowing. Not only will we begin to feel differently about ourselves, but what our lives look like on the outside will become more of a true reflection of who we really are on the inside.
This is what it means to be authentic.
So, start doing the things that make you feel good about yourself. Let go of what you think others expect from you and do what feels right! It may sound funny for men to hear that they should nurture themselves, but it’s true. Take time to pull back, rather than bulldoze through. Take time to just smile with those you love, rather than worry about the car you’re driving them in. Take time to sit in silence and be grateful for each breath, rather than realizing you spent your whole life chasing after a happiness that was right there inside you all along.
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