My yoga practice is a mirror of how I live my life. It reflects my mood, emotions, doubts and hopes. Observing myself in practice therefore has the potential to teach me about how I deal with daily challenges, with people, relationships and all those ups and downs in my life.

By observing what is going on in my mind and catching its patterns I am able to increase my awareness and start to change my patterns of thinking and eventually acting. Here are some connections between Yoga practice and life that I have noticed over the years:

Whatever happens, just keep breathing

How often are we breathing shallow through challenges in daily life, swallowingKapotasana down arising emotions? In the Yoga shala we can use the safe and familiar setting of our Yoga mat with a teacher we trust and fellow yogis around us to work on sustaining a deep breath and a clear mind even in the most challenging moments. Especially the very intense asanas (like Kapotasana – a deep backbending posture) can teach us about the value of just keeping a long breath – whatever sensation arises. This way we learn to stay confident in all life situations. Just by keeping a long deep breath!

There is always the next thing to learn, you are never finished

As mentioned before, the Ashtanga Vinyasa system with its six series has a seemingly endless amount of asanas. The system is set in a way that even very flexible and strong practitioners take years and years of dedicated practice to advance through the series only to find out that there is no finish line waiting behind the next asana. You don’t even get a medal after finishing a series, rather just another challenging asana will be added and the process startes all over.

And what a beautiful metaphor for life that is. We think: „Once I get this or that (the next career step, the nicer car, retirement, …), I will finally be happy! I will have reached THE goal.“ Even if we are rather the spiritual than the material seeker and think: „Once I get enlightened, I am done …“ we might get disappointed:

“Before enlightment
I chopped wood and carried water
After Enlightment
I chopped wood and carried water”
Zen Saying

Truth is: We are never done, will never have made it. But we might get the great realization that in thriving for where we want to get and walking the path with awareness, each and every moment is precious. In fact, the only thing that ever matters is the present moment. And it is each moment on the path that makes you grow, so learn to enjoy every step!

Knowing that I have given my best, I can gladly accept whatever the outcome is!

The state of yoga is attained by practicing diligently  (abhyasa) while being indifferent about the outcome (vairagya) -Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras I.12

There are days, when everything is easy and effortless, and hard days when even stepping on my mat seems like torture. But doing it anyway, doing at least a bit of practice every day, makes us more independent of the changing emotional and physical states we find ourselves in each morning. Sensing at each moment how much I can give, being highly demanding, yet compassionate with myself I can smile with contentment about whatever the result of my effort is.

Practicing in that way, each practice on any given day becomes a gift and a precious part of my life.

Enjoy surfing through the easy stuff and then appreciate the walk on the edge just out of your comfort zone, because that is where the “magic” happens!

Usually we like to do things and asanas that come easy, that make us feel good and that support a positive self-image. Unfortunately that is not where transformation and the „magic“ happens. Those asanas that make the mind go crazy and that already „wait“ for you around the next corner, that trigger your weak spots, those are the ones to face, deal with and be grateful afterwards when something inside has shifted and you are finally at peace with them (and the underlying issue that caused the rejection to the asana). Approaching those „trigger“-asanas the mind starts to give advices why it is ok not to do them and tells me all possible excuses why to skip them.

The same happens in life. We are presented with situations that trigger our weak spots but offer the opportunity to overcome a fear and transform us. And the mind always tries to convince us to stay inside our comfort zone. If we learn to listen closely yet detached to all that going on in the mind and just get back to breathing deeply and just do whatever we have to do without paying too much attention of the distraction coming from the mind we learn to walk more closely on the edge take more challenges and therefor live life more fully and with more magic. While keeping a smile!

Life just does not make sense, so stop analyzing everything

The Ashtanga Vinyasa sequence as it is makes a lot of sense to me (and many other people out there), meaning the asanas and vinyasas are placed anatomically and energetically in a beneficial way. Still, some people spend a lot of time discussing why things are the way they are.

„Why is this asana at this point in the sequence?“
„Why doesnt the teacher do this?“
“Why do you always put right leg first in Padmasana?”
“Why are there so many/so few jumps?”

Being a very analytical person myself I went around collecting reasons for all kinds of „unlogical“ things concerning the Ashtanga Vinyasa system. In the end we might be able to satisfy the mind by constructing a reasonable answer. Yet in the end the thing I realized was that one can always give a rational explaination why something is the way it is, but sometimes accepting the things and not bothering to ask „Why?“ can make life a lot easier. Now, I am not saying we should not try to understand everything we do (e.g. analyze complicated asanas anatomically and break it down into steps in order to master it), but we should be aware of when we are analyzing for the sake of achieving something and analyzing for the sake of keeping ourselves busy and proving to ourselves that life is just so complicated. In life sometimes just take the things how they are and accept that there is no need for everything to be completely logical, especially if it does not really affect your well-being.

Other Articles in my series about Mysore classes:

Mysore II: Benefits Of The Daily Ritual Of Practicing Ashtanga Yoga In A Mysore-style Class

Mysore III: Developing A Self-Practice In Mysore Classes

This arcticle was originally published on my blog

Tom Richter
Tom Richter

𝒾𝓂𝓅𝓇𝑜𝓋𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊𝓇 𝒷𝓇𝑒𝒶𝓉𝒽, 𝒾𝓂𝓅𝓇𝑜𝓋𝑒 𝓎𝑜𝓊𝓇 𝓁𝒾𝒻𝑒 Breathing & Movement Teacher ︴Ashtanga Therapy ︴Pranayama