"I went to yoga to deal with my anger issues," she said.
As a long time teacher and practitioner of yoga, I deeply understand this sentiment. Yoga aids in creating balance in both mind and body. We hear this all the time. The thing is, it's true.
So how to begin? There is so much gold in the beginning of anything we do. This is when we set a groove, a pattern or “samsara.’ The beginner's mind is where curiosity is born. To stay curious is to thrive. There is so much power in 'I don't know.' So much power in that willingness to learn. If it's wobbly, who cares? When I see students going for it in a pose and maybe they're kind of off, but they're in it... that is the best. I hope to share this practice with as many people as I can. To have it now, at this time in our world? It is so needed.
Yoga is a science of the mind. The practice gives us a visceral experience to create change in our body and it addresses the reactivity of the mind/body behavior. Reactivity may come out as anger or any other fear based emotion. More and more, our mind is inundated, seduced even with a constant stream of catastrophe, fear and desire for more. We have a desire for a rarified existence -- (in LA we call it the house on the hills, completely asleep to the very fact of our outstanding wealth). The mind holds us hostage for most of the day and night with these stories.
So maybe the beginner’s mind is angry or fearful. Maybe my mind is angry or fearful at any given moment, who knows? But, I do know we must develop a practice where our relationship to a sense of inner security, a relationship to something greater becomes bigger than our attachment to these fears.
Practicing “asana” or poses will create moments of friction that invite reactivity and deeply ingrained behavior patterns. On our mat, we become aware of these tendencies and enter into conscious choice -- choice to deepen these old patterns or choice to observe these moments, fully connected to sensation in the body and subsequently shift into new behavior. New behavior may come in the form of taking childs’ pose instead of stepping off the mat, throwing shade or adjusting our clothes. New behavior may be closing our eyes, feeling all of it and knowing it will pass instead of demonizing the teacher or disconnecting by focusing the mind on being someplace else. There are many subtleties in how we shift in moments of friction.
The chronic state of stress in our world will eventually change. We just don’t know when. So we need a practice to mange the elevated levels of stress and distraction.
I am encouraged to see how yoga is growing and how many great teachers we have in our world. We need them. Find your teachers. And know that your greatest teacher is probably not me. It is probably the thing you are most afraid of. It is guiding us to meet ourselves, and to connect to something greater that expands all of our capacity for love in this world.
Note: In no way is this meant to suggest that yoga can replace psychiatric, counseling, or medical attention for those in need of professional care.