50 Days of Yoga: What I Learned in India
About 3 months ago I fulfilled my long-standing dream — I packed my bags and headed off to Mysore, a birth place of modern yoga as we know it. I neither had a particular goal for this adventure nor a reason, apart from the fact that I absolutely had to go.
With an intention to stay true to my journey without a clear purpose I tried to free myself from expectations but it was easier said than done and I arrived with an unwieldy suitcase full of them. I expected to perfect my postures and to get answers to my numerous internal questions, to practice with as many teachers as possible but still come to my, and only mine Guru, to meet dozens of like-minded people and teachers I admire and feel immediate connection with all of them, to reach the source of knowledge and get introduced to the core of the practice.
Upon my arrival to Mysore all expectations were shattered into tiny pieces, like a box of granny’s crystal champagne glasses minutes before a party, leaving me bewildered and frustrated. My old hamstring injury accelerated and practice was turning into a daily struggle with pain. A teacher I started practicing with wasn’t nearly what I was looking for. The other teacher with whom I was supposed to practice, 93 years of age, was admitted to hospital just a day before my class. An idealised (by me) wider yogi community appeared not at all to be free of human short-comings which at times intensified in a rather isolated society. When most of the issues seemed to be sorted I contracted viral fever which pinned me to bed for almost a week and spent it in a miserable solitude.
While many things didn’t go the way it was expected, many more went far beyond my expectations. I did meet the Teacher, and it wouldn’t have been possible if everything went according to the initial plan. I fell in love with Karnataka. I built very few, but life-changing friendships. I found answers to the questions I didn’t know I had.
Every single experience, good or bad, taught me a lesson — and most of the lessons, in fact, had little to do with asanas or physical practice. Many of them would seem obvious, but you will be surprised how few of us follow them in our daily lives — I put nine of them together, as a short reminder to myself. Regardless if you are following a path of yoga or not you might relate to them as they extend into our lives far beyond a yoga mat:
1) If you can do something now, do it
If at this very moment a situation is favourable for you to do something you have always wanted to — just do it, the “stars” might never come into the same position again. Be strong and sensible enough to distinguish fears and excuses from real obstacles and remember that time flies at the speed of light.
2) See things as they really are
The way we see ourselves, people, events and things is very much shaped by our external environments. One needs courage and clarity of mind to see the world beyond the way it is understood, accepted, interpreted and expected in our society. Once we master this ability we are able to channel our energy and thoughts towards what truly matters to us and achieve unexpected results in life while being at piece with ourselves and surroundings.
3) The first thing to see as it really is — is yourself
You can’t understand the world and others if you don’t understand yourself. You can’t feel comfortable anywhere and with anyone if you are not comfortable with yourself. You can reach wherever you want in life and stay sane only if you are true to your own needs, strengths and desires. Studying yourself and being honest about yourself is a hard and life-long work, but it is the only way to your personal balance.
4) Discipline and practice can do wonders
The secret to an overnight success, a healthy body, a happy family is not in a lucky star position or in your personal fortune. The secret is in a daily practice and a discipline. A lot of things seem intimidating when we start them and we often feel we will never reach anywhere. If instead of focusing on a perfect goal we want to reach which seems unattainable we will focus on building our every day discipline and practice — the result will come inevitably.
5) Practicing asanas is not about reaching a perfect-looking posture and supernatural levels of flexibility (even if your Instagram feed tells you so)
Performance of asanas doesn’t do you good only when you reach perfect alignment and the deepest stretch or bend possible, but when you engage the right muscles, learn to feel and understand your bodies and keep your mind focused. It is not about a goal, it’s about a process.
6) Your weakness might be your blessing
Naturally, when you are struggling with physical or emotional pain thinking of it as a blessing is the last thing which can come to mind. My injury which made me feel “unworthy” at the beginning forced me to listen to my body, taught me to deconstruct asanas and to see the meaning of practice beyond a physical level.
7) Accepting instead of judging and fighting will make you a much happier person
The amount of time which is spent on judging people and blaming circumstances is enormous. Accepting means acknowledging the state of people and things which can not be changed by you or have little to do with you, letting them be and spending time and energy of what truly matters to your personal development and well-being.
8) We need to face our fears to let them go
The roots of our unwanted behaviours and troubling thoughts often lie in our fears. The only way to get rid of them is to accept their existence, face them and let them go, one by one.
9) Yoga is a journey for life and there are no shortcuts
Once, when I was pushing myself unnecessarily hard to achieve perfection in a posture and thereby hurting myself my Teacher came to me and said: “You are here for life, aren’t you?” Truly, if we injure ourselves or burnout in the process of chasing (visible to others) perfection asap what will be the use of it? Yoga practice is not a competition — it is rather an inevitable part of your daily hygiene.
Before I came to Mysore I thought I would intensify my practice, but the opposite thing happened — I slowed down and surprisingly it took me much further than a usual rush and race for perfection. As most other realisations it didn’t happen without a struggle, because changing your habits and behavioural traits is a painful and slow process. But given that our lives consist of those daily routines and small steps it is the only way to reach balanced, healthy and happy lives we long for.
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Originally published at www.happilyglobalized.com.