Living Yoga

Ganges sunset

Watching the sun set over the Ganga during my pilgrimage to India

What does Living Yoga mean to me? My experience and journey has evolved over the past number of years. Two years ago, I may have said it meant taking a class once or twice a week – becoming better at poses and quieting my mind for a minute or two. Now, it means so much more. Yoga is my spiritual path and practice to connect with my higher self.

From focusing on perfecting poses to connecting with the inner divine is quite a leap. The shift in my experience and understanding of yoga didn’t happen over night. It’s been a slow and organic process of learning and becoming gradually more dedicated to a personal practice. Practicing yoga has heightened my awareness of who I am, who I want to be and the joys of living a fuller life. It’s a work in progress that will span this lifetime and likely a few more.

On May 12, yogis and yoginis from cities and towns in Atlantic Canada will gather to share their yoga experiences at the 1st annual Living Yoga Unconference happening in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Over the past two years, I’ve come to know and practice with many wonderful yoga teachers and students in Halifax. I was also very fortunate to meet many more from all over the US, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and of course India at the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage this January and February.

The Living Yoga conference will be one more opportunity to meet and learn from fellow seekers who are “living yoga” in their own unique way. Hearing Pandit Rajmani Tigunait’s keynote will surely be a highlight. I’m still digesting the many lessons and his inspirational words from the pilgrimage. He shares his wisdom and experiences with such openness, love and a sincere desire to help others on their spiritual path.  Pandit Rajmani lives yoga with an infectious joy and passion. I look forward to learning from him in person once again, and the many others attending the conference.

Small steps

“Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara-asevito dirdha bhumih.” Yoga Sutra 1.14

Yoga sutra 1.14 is a teaching I must remind myself of daily. Simply put, practice makes perfect. Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally offer this translation:

“You must cultivate your practice over an extended period of time; it must be steady, without gaps, and it must be done correctly – for then a firm foundation is laid.”

My practice has definitely deepened over the past two years as I learn and experience more of the yoga teachings. It’s become less vatic in nature with increased commitment and discipline, two things I’ve admittedly struggled with my entire life. The shelves and cupboards in my house are full of half read books, a half-knitted baby sweater for my step-son Logan (he’s nine now), partially completed scrapbooks and various other craft projects. I’m surrounded by constant reminders of my tendency to start personal projects with great intention and excitement but never stick with them long enough to realize the wonderful satisfaction of completion.

The unfinished items I find most amusing are the almost mint condition books on procrastination and how to become more organized. Note to self and to all you other procrastinators and perfectionist types out there: you’ll never finish any of these books. However if you buy enough of them – and they all say pretty much the same thing – you’ll likely end up reading an entire self-help book one day and gain some insight. For me, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned for overcoming paralyzing perfectionism is to take small steps.

It’s with small steps that I’ve cultivated and deepened my yoga practice. Each day I rise before dawn to complete my morning ritual, or step on my mat or sit for meditation, I feel a sense of accomplishment for taking one more small step on this life-long journey of self-realization. I pause, smile, breathe deeply and thank myself for “showing up”.

As I read this sutra today it motivated me to venture out for an early morning class at NY Loves Yoga. Vacations are ideal excuses to push pause on one’s practice. But not this time. The class was a challenging, fast-paced, flow focused on stoking the fire at the third chakra. Opening and closing the practice with Om Mani Pedme Hum sung to a harmonium, Christine’s infectious energy, and the wonderful sense of community made for an enjoyable second experience at the studio and a fantastic start to my day.

So as I look forward to the next three weeks of intense practice at the Himalayan Institute and taking in the Kumbha Mela, this week’s small, positive steps have added to the foundation upon which I will continue to deepen my practice and embrace this experience.