I remember my first few yoga classes. Back in those days, I initially believed yoga was just a series of pretzel-like poses I managed to put my body into. But then I started noticing how good I felt after class. My body was relaxed. I felt a sense of peace. I wondered: How did this yoga stuff work, exactly?
Curious about my experiences, I began to look into this yoga business a little deeper. Almost instantly, I stumbled upon the major revelation that, wowee, yoga isn’t just about poses! It’s about a whole lot of other things too. Like meditation and breath awareness. Like being kind to ourselves and everyone else. I read that I could practice yoga even while doing the dishes! All I had to do was concentrate on how I was sudsing and rinsing the plates. So I tried it. I stood at the sink, hands submerged in soapy water, and steadied my breathing. And there it was again, that lovely sense of peace. If it works with doing something as boring as dishes, I thought, it must work with everything else too. It became clear to me that I could find ease by being fully present to the task at hand, from simple washing dishes to managing life’s trickier moments.
Take getting married and being immediately gifted with two step-kids. Daily life evolved into a messier, fuller and more intense routine. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I was to have had years of yoga with me before I embarked on the journey of marriage and becoming a step-mom. Whenever I felt as though my levels of patience were reaching their limits, I sought refuge on my mat. My yoga and meditation practices kept me sane and grounded. Being in a blended family has been the hardest yet most rewarding yoga practice for me.
I don’t know where I’d be without yoga, especially when my fuse starts overheating or I feel like a Mack Truck has blindsided me.
Like the time my husband’s ex-wife, less than 3 months into our marriage, said she wanted to have monthly outings with my husband and the kids. Without me. That crushed and disillusioned me. I was essentially being told that I didn’t belong, that I was being excluded from the family.
Despite the urge to freak out and explode, I made a commitment to keep my cool. I paused, took a deep breath and calmly asked my husband how he valued our relationship and whether my exclusion felt “blended” and loving to him. Rather than running with the temptation to see his ex’s intentions as manipulative, I decided to see a soul trying to do what she thought was best for herself and her kids.
Yoga is a path of radical self-inquiry, and it’s that part of my practice that consistently nudges me away from reactivity. “Consistently” being the key word here. As I’ve written in an earlier post:
Radical self-inquiry has helped me immensely over the years. It has kept me on track when I felt as though my wheels were popping of the rails. Yoga offers no quick-fix; that’s why we call it a practice. We’ve gotta keep at it. We come to value the ugly moments because they’re the soil from which inspired grace roots and blossoms.
There’s a personal mantra that continuously inspires me to both value and grow from the muck: “I want to create connection.”
If I react hastily and do or say something harmful, I’ll only end up creating dis-connection. I’ve learned to take a breath and just be OK with whatever occurs, especially with family situations. I often think of the metaphor of being a lighthouse amongst the storm. I want to be the lighthouse for my kids so they can always find their way home, to their own inner peace. My serving as an example to them is so much more powerful a lesson than my telling them what to do or how to be.
At the end of the day, we all want acceptance and love. Yoga offers a very simple way to cultivate the harmony that make both possible. There’s no mysterious formula. Just pause, breathe, reflect and smile from the heart out. The resulting joy can feel magical and ethereal at times if you let it.