When I had just finished graduate school and started my first "real job" (a teacher), I felt like there were two worlds. There was the real world, and then there was the yoga world. The real world was pretty much a never ending loop of the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz except instead of debris revolving around me there were constant looming deadlines for bills, rent, papers to grade, meetings to attend, appointments to schedule, and my first year of teaching to get through. I functioned on little more than cheerios and M&Ms (but that's a story for another day), too little sleep, and a constant nagging feeling that I was always late for some important meeting.
And then there was the yoga world. Road rage taking over, I'd drive like a bat outta hell from staff meetings to get to yoga class on time. I'd walk in--sorry-- run in, kick my shoes off, speed walk into the room, unroll my mat and finally, FINALLY exhale the breath I didn't know I was holding. The energy in the studio would melt away all the stress, and the class would begin. There was the yoga world- a world where constant calm seemingly prevailed- and then the real world. And the two never seemed to merge. But a lot has changed.
There are so many aspects of yoga that I love, but what I appreciate most is the way yoga can be a tool for self-inquiry. The practice, the poses themselves and the breath, reveals so much about our behavior, our inner dialogue, and our current emotional state. Each time you step on the mat to practice you're given the opportunity to be an observer of your body and mind. I realize this sounds a little out there so let me break it down.
Say you're in a challenging yoga class. What you do and how you react on the mat is a direct reflection of who you are. So pay attention to your thoughts and behavior.
When I look back on that crazy time in my life, I would go through a variety of reactions. Even though I was happy to be in class getting my little dose of the yoga world, my first reaction when the class didn't go as I had envisioned would be frustration with the instructor. I'd have an internal argument going on about why the flow didn't make any sense, or how her tone of voice got under my skin. I'd get annoyed when she'd keep us holding a challenging pose while she would adjust someone and ask the student a few follow up questions while the rest of us were sweating our faces off holding the pose.
The second reaction would be annoyance with myself. When poses weren't immediately accessible to me whether due to an injury or just the simple fact that I wasn't flexible or strong enough, I'd blame myself.
And the overall reaction blanketing the entire class would be a million thoughts about anything other than what we were doing in the moment. I need to make sure I call so-and-so back, I need to grade those papers, how long is she gonna make us stay in downward dog, I wonder if I should confirm my dentist appointment, dammit rent is due next week, woohoo payday tomorrow, happy hour maybe, ugh my wrist is hurting, I'm sweating so much I'll definitely need to shower immediately, how many more minutes until this is over?
So what did this say about me? Besides the obvious, that I essentially wasn't ever in the moment whether it be in yoga world or the real world- I was also quick to blame others and myself when things weren't going smoothly in the class. Was that true of my life at that point in time? Absolutely.
So what can be done to quiet the Wizard of Oz tornado in your life and merge the yoga world with the real world?
I think the first step is recognizing and taking mental note of what's going on. The next time you're on the mat, picture yourself separate from your body and your thoughts, and check in with how you feel and what the internal dialogue (if anything) is saying. The next step to keep practicing, keep being mindful when you're on the mat, and eventually everything will quiet down - both internally and around you. It sounds pretty simple, and it is, but I think it's one of those things where our lives are dominated by complicated schedules/deadlines/things to do, that we forget how to just do something simple. We make simple things complicated. Yoga is a meditation in motion. It takes discipline and practice to get back to simplicity. But stick with it because then the two worlds - the "real world" and the yoga world can merge and you'll find the calm.