One of the interesting things about yoga is you can see most everything about a person by the way they practice. When you become aware of this fun psychoanalytic fact, you can start learning all kinds of useful things about yourself. You have the ability to change your practice and your life.
We all know that the body and mind are connected. But when we really take the time to reflect on how much they are in sync, we start to understand that they're actually the same. Have you ever gotten a headache from stress and thought about how that happened? Maybe you got stuck in the middle of a frustrating situation. You had a thought that sparked a series of thoughts that developed into stress and tension. That tension had no place to release and gave you a headache. If we can give ourselves headaches with our thoughts what else can we do?
The power of being a positive person is an essential tool that everyone should develop. Good actors have the ability to trick their brains and nervous systems to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Imagination is their preparation and kick-start. Once they have that going their body is able to respond naturally. The fun part is that your body doesn't know you're imagining. Your nervous system isn't able to differentiate whether you are an actor in a scene fighting with your boyfriend, or having the time of your life. You systems all align together with your thoughts. In a way, we can use imagination to fake it 'til we make it. Our perception of feelings, including pain, pleasure, anxiety, complacency, is all a choice. We can choose to go along with what we feel if that's what we want, or choose to amend our thoughts and direct ourselves in a way that we want.
When you're in a challenging yoga class, or in the middle of a long run or any other physically demanding activity there is a moment when your brain will tell you your body is uncomfortable and you should quit. That's the moment of choice, if you notice it. Without noticing, you may just react by checking out immediately. When you actually notice those reactions, you get to choose what response is really best for you. If you learn to stay calmly with challenges (when your brain is so sure you must instantly quit) you will become stronger mentally and physically, in all kinds of situations. If you quit, well, you know the rest.
Self-reflection and awareness aren't easy. Everyone wants to be told what to do. It keeps the psychics in business. But even if someone told us the best diet, the keys to our success, and how to actually sustain happiness, it still wouldn't work for us. We have to figure it out for ourselves. That's the hard part. We can find good teachers but we have to do the work. No one is going to lose 30 pounds for you, or hand you the perfect job, house, and family. If they were everyone would have what they want. People would complain a lot less and stop blaming others for their misfortune. It takes a lot of hard work to stay on track and no one can guide us but ourselves.
Things get easier the more effort you put in. In class this morning I asked everyone to bind their arms in an extended side angle pose. The ones having trouble were in a much too shallow stance. It's hard to maintain a wide stance, bring your front thigh parallel to the ground and keep the back leg stable and lifted. It's much easier to stay in a shallow stance and keep comfortable. But you can't bind in a shallow stance. When you move deeper it gets harder. But then you can bind so eventually it becomes easier. Ease takes effort on and off the mat. You're in charge of your own work ethic.
So take a cafe break. That's my corny acronym of the day. When you go to the cafe you're on your way to lining up your intention and cruising toward your ultimate you. Here's what it stands for.
Compassion. Without compassion for yourself and others you can become a not-so-nice person, pile-driving toward your goals without awareness or perspective. Compassion allows you to weather challenges, help others to do the same, and get real enjoyment out of success.
Alignment. We need to put our bodies in the right alignment to get the most benefits from a pose. The same holds for finding the best approach in any situation. It takes effort, intuition, and the ability to control your mind.
Focus. Without focus we're a prisoner of our thoughts. We can get wrapped up in them and they take over our actions. Practice lets us handle our thoughts deliberately, giving us a chance to make the choices we want.
Effort. Hard work will give you rewards. Whether you are working to lose weight, finish deadlines on time, or be a kinder person, goals take work. No one can do it for you but you - but with compassion, alignment, and focus, you've got everything you need!