Yoga is a tool for creating balance. The postures or asanas are a way to calm the physical body in order to quiet the mind. As every yoga practitioner knows, this makes it an incredibly useful for helping overcome anxiety, stress, negative thinking and depression. Numerous studies have shown yoga’s ability to overcome physical illness and lift our mood. So it is easy to grasp at yoga when we’re down in the dumps.
If that’s all we use yoga for, however, we are missing an important piece of the practice. The aim aim of mindfulness is not to feel a particular way, but to be present and open to whatever we feel in the moment. Remember, yoga means unity. In true unity there is no divide between happiness and sadness, they are both parts of the whole fabric of life.
When we feel great, it is easy to let yoga slide. We think we don’t “need” it because we’re already happy. But yoga is there to balance our hearts and minds in every emotional state. Reeling with happiness is just as much an extreme as sinking into deep depression.
Life is a continuous series of up and down, back and forth, light and dark, good and bad. If we want to find a genuine stability we have to be aware that both sides of the coin are temporary. We react to them differently, but they are equally fleeting.
To achieve deep peace of mind, we have to be relaxed in both joy and sorrow. This is hard, because we want to hang on to happiness. When we receive praise or love or a gift we want to cling to that sensation. But if we do, we lose the ability to be open and non-attached. Then, when we have a bad day, or suffer a loss, we get stuck because we’ve forgotten how to let go.
It’s our human nature to grab onto pleasure and try to run away from pain, but yoga can help us escape that constant cycle. It teaches us to be present and accepting of the moment — of our breath, our physical body, our thoughts, and our intentions. Next time you’re in the studio and feel incredibly good, or incredibly bad, breathe into that feeling and remind yourself that life is unity. Everything flows, if we let it.
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