“You should do yoga”

Living Yoga Svadhyaya

sarah jamieson yoga

Yoga is awesome. I love it. It would be hard to capture all of the positive ways that yoga has impacted my life. Come to think of it, it would be hard to find an aspect of my life that isn’t better as a result of practicing yoga. And, the benefits of my practice continue to unfold. Yoga just seems to get more awesome with time.

And there is science to back that up: I recently read a paper written by my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Lindsay Reoch, in which she mentions a study that “compared experienced yoga practitioners (5 years or more experience) with beginner practitioners (1-5 years experience). [The researchers] found that the experienced practitioners scored significantly higher on mindfulness levels and significantly lower on stress levels than the beginner practitioners, suggesting that the longer one practices yoga, the more benefits will be received.”

A life-changing practice that gets better with time. What to do I do with that?

Hmmm. How about tell everyone I know, “You should do yoga!”

Yoga and your family

It can be frustrating for devoted yoga practitioners when our loved ones are not interested in practicing yoga. We want to share the wealth of the practice; we want our loved ones to feel the ways the practice has helped us to feel. But it often doesn’t go well when we try to convince other people to do yoga. In a course I took with Judith Lasater, she counselled everyone in the room: “Avoid at all costs looking at your loved ones and seeing a lack of yoga.”

But that is not always easy to do when the lack of yoga is so obvious: the back pain, the inflexibility, the anxiety, the stress levels, the chronic pain, the self-criticism, the muscular imbalance, the patterns of compensation, the shallow chest breathing, the catastrophic thinking, the insomnia, and the low levels of body awareness.

How can I see the people I love struggling in these ways without trying to share with them the tools that have helped me?

Be the change

The wisdom of Gandhi does not need rephrasing: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

There is no evangelical component to the practice of yoga. Nowhere in the teachings (that I am aware of, at least) does it say, “Encourage other people to do yoga.” Yoga is about your relationship with yourself, and about how you conduct yourself in the world around you. Classically, yoga was only taught to people who sought to learn it.

I experienced this style of teaching when I was in India studying with Yogi Vishvketu. There were times where he would only speak if people asked him questions. He would not prepare what to teach us in advance or proceed to lecture for a predefined amount of time. He simply spoke about things when people asked about them. If no one asked any questions – if no one asked to learn – he would not teach.

If your loved ones don’t want to do yoga, it is an opportunity for you to do yoga. Ask yourself: what is going on for you when you want other people to do yoga? For me, it is often a combination of love, fear, and frustration.

Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” I think it would also be fair to say that most of us spend a fair bit of time thinking about how other people should change and less time exploring the possibility of changing ourselves. Instead of pushing someone else to do yoga, my yoga practice is about honouring and attending to the emotions that are inspiring me to push.

I should do yoga

I get excited about yoga. I believe the practice has the ability to bring profound levels of peace and well-being to the world. But I also recognize that there is an absence of yoga in needing other people to do yoga.

So, instead of trying to sell people on the benefits of yoga, I turn to the words of Gandhi. I turn inward, and I do my own work. I try not to ramble with excitement when people ask me about yoga. I try to listen, to ask them questions, and to understand what they are seeking. I remind myself that everyone needs to find their own way, and that by practicing yoga myself, I learn to give them the space to do so.

In addition to this work, I do one more important thing for myself: I make sure I have some good friends who love yoga, because every so often I need to gush about how wonderful it is.

Sarah Jamieson

Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov


Does Your Life Show Your Love?

Awareness Brahmacharya Living Yoga Yoga

Seeing a poster on the community board for “Family Yoga” or “Partner Yoga” usually implies an asana class or workshop that you and your family (or partner) can go to together, but there are other ways of drawing your family and friends into your yoga practice.

In a post I wrote outlining the eight limbs of yoga, I defined the practice of brahmacharya as the wise use of energy. In his book The Heart of YogaT.K.V. Desikachar elaborates on this concept of brahmacharya:

This word is composed of the root car, which means “to move,” and the word brahma, which means “truth” in terms of the one essential truth. We can understandbrahmacharya as movement toward the essential. […] More specifically, brahmacharyasuggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths.

Drawing elements of Desikachar’s explanation into my understanding, I see the practice of brahmacharya as actively and intentionally moving your life in a direction that aligns with your deepest values and your greatest joys.

A common challenge to the consistent practice of brahmacharya is the easy way in which seemingly urgent things get in the way of the important things. For many of us, the urgent things often relate to work and productivity, accomplishing and acquiring, while the important things are our friends and family, our health and general well-being.

Your practice of brahmacharya might mean committing to leave work on time to be home with your family instead of staying at work an extra hour or two to finish up a project. It might mean choosing to have friends and family regularly into your home instead of occasionally having them over to a clean and ridiculously well put together version of your home.  

The basis of this practice – this Family, Partner and Friend Yoga – is recognizing how important your relationships with your friends and family are to you. In the midst of all the things you will do and not do in your life, how much do you value cultivating and supporting deep connections with others?

Place yourself in the future and think about what you want to look back upon.

Once you have clarified your value for relationships, the next step is to ask yourself whether or not the ways you spend your time and energy accurately reflect the importance of these relationships. Does the way you are living your life communicate what you love and what you value?

If your day-to-day life does not reflect how important your friends and family are to you, the next step in your practice is to begin to find ways to move towards a life that does. This practice requires discipline, commitment and, most importantly, compassion. It is a life-long yoga practice to stay connected to our values in the midst of all the urgency that life throws our way, and it is an even deeper practice to commit to using our time and energy in ways that align with those values.

Post also available on YYoga’s Blog