Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Using Yoga to Be Your Authentic Self

Some days, the deeper I get into yoga, the more confusing it gets.

Robin tells me that I'm just "soaking it all up", and she's right: the more I learn about yoga, the more I realize that there's a lot I don't know. Yoga goes so much deeper than just the asanas (poses), and when I start thinking about everything else that goes along with the practice, I start to see yoga as a metaphor for, well, life.

So, here's what I'm thinking: Yoga has become big business in the United States. Look around: there are magazines (to which I subscribe), conferences (which I attend now and then), and yoga clothes out there that cost more than my kid's school tuition payments. There are teachers out there who are, undoubtedly good teachers, but who are, at the end of the day, still looking to sell their books, DVDs, audio downloads, etc.

I went through a little bit of an identity crisis when I started going to yoga class four days a week. Everyone around me was wearing these expensive pieces of athletic apparel. They "looked" the part. Oh, I thought, in order to do yoga, I have to buy these really expensive, shiny clothes with a lotus on the butt of my pants. Because, really, I wanted to look just like everyone else in class.

But then I was shopping at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, and I came across this vendor selling the coolest upcycled clothing that I've seen in a long time. It went along with everything that I believe in: small business, recycling clothing, supporting an artist with fair prices. So, I bought a tank top and a hoodie.

And then I realized that, wow, I can do yoga in these clothes! They were comfortable. They fit. So what if they weren't Prana or Lululemon or whatever? They were made by hand, and by purchasing them, I put my money where my beliefs are: in the small business owner who earns her money doing what she loves.

For me, I've started to realize that yoga is a way for me to slow down and think about who I am and how I want to live my life. There's so much more to yoga than just the poses - I mean, anybody can put on a pair of skimpy yoga shorts and push back into Downward Dog and breathe. But does everybody really understand that there's so much more going on when you do that simple asana?

Yoga is all about authenticity. If you want to just do yoga for a physical workout, that's great, but that's all you're going to get from it. But if you start to apply the teachings of yoga and the discipline of yoga to the rest of your life...what might happen?

I'm discovering that instead of spending my money on mail-order clothes that "look" like yoga clothes, I'm frequenting my local thrift shop and resale shop. The money I spend at the thrift shop goes to support the local food pantry for needy families. The resale shop is owned by a friend who is a small business owner. Both are causes that I care about deeply.

And THAT is what yoga is about. It's not about just the poses. It's about being mindful of your body, being mindful of your life, and about living with purpose.

As I begin my yoga teacher training in October, I'm going to be holding on to these ideas, and using them to shape what kind of yoga teacher I will be.

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