Yoga is Life || It Could Also Be The Most Humbling, Challenging Practice You Undertake
Adventures of the Soul by Khadija Muhaisen Dajani
They say that yoga asana practice on the mat is a mini representation of one’s life off the mat. I agree. The time we spend meditating, breathing, stretching, twisting, and strengthening the body —contorting ourselves sometimes into unimaginable shapes and positions —all the while trying to maintain steadiness of focus and clarity of mind is an honest reflection of the person we are in life, minus the contortions. Those of us who ultimately pass the test and “move up” prove to have the steadiest of minds and deepest of connections to their true selves. Most of us have to re-take the test. Thousands of times.
Yes, I do believe wholeheartedly that everyone should be practising yoga. The yoga practice I refer to may not be what most of us have been fed and programmed to believe as “yoga.” The commercialization of yoga that we have seen over the last decade, in my view, is one of two: an overly enthusiastic celebration of this passing of the test for some practitioners, or an exploitation of an ancient wisdom that has its roots in a fictional world of denial, spiritual bypassing, and greed. In order for you to meet yourself, start by finding that steadiness of the mind on your two feet. In fact, conquering the magic of groundedness —truly connecting to the ground— while expanding awareness and connection to that which is beyond our material existence is the gateway to “figuring” it all out.
One yoga asana that got me diving into the spiritual significance of my yoga practice is virabhadrasana II (warrior 2) with the arms extended, palms turned down, one facing forward, the other facing backward, and the core rooted firmly in the centre. Physically, this pose works on strengthening the leg muscles, relieving cramps in the calf and thighs, and building flexibility, mobility, and elasticity in the lower extremities. It also works on toning the abdominal organs.
The pose in itself is a manifestation of life: we are connected to our past and our future, yet firmly rooted in the present. The more awareness we bring to these three directions, the more energy flows into our whole existence. When energy flows into the whole, we are in alignment —within and with the universe. This is the state of flow that heralds the passing of the test: when the universe moves to support us to maintain this higher vibration of existence, instantly upgrading our life from the physical plane to an energetic one whose metrics and values are derived from the divine essence.
In order for us to forge ahead, we need to know who we are. An integral part of who we are is our past, lifetimes and ancestors ago. It is this story that is ingrained in our cellular make-up. Ancient cultures knew this very well: we carry our ancestors in our DNA. It has taken thousands of years to make you the person you are today. And you are who you are today because you have a purpose to fulfill. In its simplest manifestations, these are the seeds of “identity” we grow into. As we develop, our attachment to and curiosity in who we are deepens. I am living it now as I watch my daughter blossom into womanhood independently.
Nourished with the gift of who we are and what we carry, we look toward what is ahead. This is when the power of intention-setting steers the ship. Consider intentions a theme —for your life,or an umbrella that holds within your life choices. It has taken me 45 years to find mine. Your intention/s determines your values, sets your life metrics, and energetically prods you onto flow.
We are our past and our future, held together in the “now”. Often, my present moment has been my yoga mat. It is on my mat that I am reminded to breathe. It is when I breathe that I drop into my body, physically, emotionally, and mentally. That is when I remember my drishti (gaze or focus) and find my steadiness. That steadiness is when everything aligns. Just like in the perfect virabhadrasana II. My breath starts to flow through my body, rising from the centre —the present— and circulating to the extremities: the past and the future, then dropping back down to the present as it roots me into that moment and my contact with the earth beneath my feet. My legs and arms may start to tremble from muscle fatigue. This response —which feeds my mental response— depends on the physical activity of the week, my sleep pattern, immunity, and general state of my health, among many others. Most of the time, these challenges are beyond my control. What I do have control over —as long as I am living— are my breath and my thoughts. When I am in alignment, the two work seamlessly together to support me in accessing the steadiness and resilience required to meet the challenge and my own self meeting the challenge. The cycle repeats itself every time I get on the mat. And when I am lucky, after I have been through this 10,000 times on my mat, I am reminded of this off my mat. Most of the time —and this is after 10,000 virabhadrasana II’s, it takes me a while to find my steadiness. In this while, I lose my s*&T. I stumble and fall. Eventually, I find my breath. And my intention. I get back on my feet, humbled, grateful. Most of all, despite the disappointment, I find it in me to aspire to honour every one who has come before me and who has brought me to that moment.
The yoga I encourage everyone to practice is this:
True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed. Yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been. Yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied —Aadil Palkhivala
Yoga is not only lived. Yoga is LIFE. My yoga this evening is getting into a pool and attempting to keep up with a group of fearless women who may not be able to perform the perfect plank, but who can beat my a** in the pool uncontested. I get to physically see my breath in the water as the bubbles guide me forward. My yoga mat is the water. My groundedness takes the form of a streamlined weightless body. My drishti is the line of dark-coloured tiles that keeps me centred and lights my way. My challenge —in swimming, running, and yoga asana— is to surrender, to invite wellness into my being so I can #presson on the path of compassionate living.
P.S. I sneak a confidential number of peaks at the clock during swim practice. That is because I know the effort —in this case the most humbling, challenging thing I have ever done— does not last forever. At some point, it ends. Sometimes sooner than others.