My mind was wandering during my yoga practice this morning and I began thinking about how I do the same thing every day – the same physical yoga routine that is – but actually how different it ends up being regardless of its strict sequence and rules of drishti (gaze), breath (even nose breathing) and asana (poses), not to mention the bandhas (locks).
I may feel completely different afterward or even during my yoga practice; I may not go as deep as I did the day before; I may cut out a few poses. Some days I sweat more than others or have more energy and sweat less than the day before. There are so many differences really, even though I wake up in the morning and it’s the same ol’, same ol’: ekam, inhale; dwe, exhale.
Usually when I describe my yoga practice to people, after telling them that I do yoga “on my own”, I give them the short answer: “Ashtanga yoga (the physical practice) is a sequence of poses, the same poses and so I do the same routine yoga poses every day”. Usually the reaction I hear is “Oh my God, that sounds so boring. I would never be able to do that.” But the truth is, that’s just the short answer and there is more to it. Every day, each pose is different because I may be able to stretch a little further (or not stretch as far) or maybe one day I can jump through easily and the next day, not so much.
Afterall, there are 44 poses in just the primary series of Ashtanga yoga, not including the vinyasas (jump throughs) so it’s not like there isn’t variation.
In this modern world, there are so many types of physical activities that people use to exercise, incorporating this and that and switching it up on a daily basis – running, spinning, lifting weights, aerobics, cycling, swimming, Zumba, Crossfit, water cycling, stationary surfing, trampoline workouts … the list goes on and on. Not to mention other physical activities – hiking, diving, climbing, sports, etc.
While these things I’m sure are fun (and I especially enjoy outdoor fitness activities myself) if I were to try to exercise every day using one of these methods, I would get so distracted with all the things there is to choose from, that I probably would never get off my bum.
There are so many distractions in the world, period. So much to do. So much going on. So much for me, me, me. What do I want to do next? Look at me. Where do I want to travel next? Look at me. What clothes should I buy next? Look at me. Read this blog and watch me post it on Facebook. Look at me.
It’s interesting that I even like Ashtanga at all. Because it’s full of rules and I hate rules. I hate traffic rules that don’t make sense. I hate the rule about waiting your turn – the squeaky wheel gets the cheese, IMO. I hate tax laws and “do not enter” signs. I hate that mostly ignorant people make up the rules that half the time don’t make sense or don’t apply to unique circumstances. I almost compulsively try to break all the rules or at least circumnavigate them. If you tell me “do it this way”, I will find a better way (or fail trying).
But Ashtanga is full of rules and I follow them all, or at least try to. Why? I guess because I have respect for it and it works and it’s genius. And I need structure or else I’d go crazy (let me be honest here).
So I stick with the mundane and the boring Ashtanga and you know what I find? I find that it helps me cope with life, which can at times also be monotonous and tedious. Because what I notice about life, when I really stop to notice the details – is that it’s not the same every day either. I may do similar things, especially in terms of working and eating and sleeping, but there are subtleties that can make a big difference whether I feel good or not, whether I can make someone else feel good or not.
And these subtleties aren’t always easy to see – you may have to be already comfortable in your routine to notice them, you may need the mindset to let you dig a little deeper, and you need the faith or focus that it takes to realize there may just be something more interesting to what merely seems, to use an old friend’s favorite word: quotidian. Amazingly, yoga has taught me all of this.
Noticing these subtleties more frequently, I can see – almost as-if from behind the scenes – how my mind is working. What is it attracted to or repulsed by? What causes it to feel happy or sad or anxious or tired? There are weird details all around us – and our quick reactions or even subconscious reactions to them inhibit us from appreciating them as they are – as-is – free of a negative feeling or a positive feeling. They just are and it’s up to us to decide what to do with them. We can ignore these feelings until they creep up on us later. We can deal with them now to try to get a positive outcome or maybe react too quick and get a negative outcome.
A cloud is a cloud is a cloud. But watch one float by and see how it changes and takes form. Watch how it clumps together and falls back apart. Watch it race through the sky or slowly glide. You will never see another cloud do that same thing again.
Appreciate it for what it was. And then let it go.