Through the sincere, disciplined practice of yoga, we can each have a direct experience of ourselves and the world. Practice—whether it’s asana, mantra, meditation, or pranayama—can be the portal to this firsthand knowledge, giving us a deeper understanding of the ways in which we navigate through our daily lives.
Rather than asking us to sign on to a particular belief system, practice offers a direct conduit to our unique truth. Through the lens of yoga, we approach the realization of both “who” we are—the parts of us that change with circumstances and moods—and “what” we are—the deeper, unchanging Self that witnesses those shifts. One often-used metaphor is that of the weather, which is constantly changing, versus the sky, which remains present and unwavering even as clouds or the sun move across it.
How does practice bring forth this awareness, allowing us to see the sky beyond the weather? By giving us a forum in which to feel the sensations and stay with what’s present in the moment, activating our witness consciousness—self-observation without judgment. Whatever we need to work through, whatever needs attention, will come up in the practice. We notice that certain practices make us feel more grounded, more clear, more connected. We’re also cognizant of the obstacles that come up during practice, which might show up as resistance to challenge, a racing mind during meditation, or any number of thoughts and sensations. This awareness of what’s happening in the moment naturally transfers to everyday life, what we call “yoga off the mat.”
Making a daily yoga practice a priority has the potential to shift everything in life. When we move away from practice, that’s when we’re more susceptible to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, disconnection, or overwhelm, and generally lose a sense of the bigger picture. Practice has the ability to bring us back to a more meaningful relationship with life.
As yoga teachers, one of the most valuable tools is to be in our own practice. We can only take someone as far as we are willing to take ourselves. Working from our own direct experience, we’re able to hold space for others to explore their own inquiry.
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