Enjoying a successful yoga practice

How do you define “success”? Will you be successful when you get your first full time job? Your own apartment? How about when your business begins to turn a profit? Maybe you have loftier goals. Are you a success because you drive a $120,000 car? When you wear a diamond studded Rolex? Is it about what you can do for others? Are you a success when you buy your mom a house? Situational? Like having six months worth of savings in the bank? Is your definition more emotional? Are you a success when you lose ten pounds? Get that nose/boob/facelift surgery? Or is your definition based on events? Are you a success because you are married? Have kids? Became a committed member to your church?

Maybe you never thought that much about it because you’re normally pretty pleased with yourself. IF that is the case, I would agree with you. No matter what anyone else thinks, you’ve won! Being happy with yourself, comfortable in your own body, the Sanskrit concept “santosa” – is wonderful.

But what if you’re not so self satisfied? What if you have a vague, nagging sense of things being “not right” ? What if you’re not happy and you can’t make yourself happy? You want love but you can’t find it. You want strength, love, power, money, charisma, or fill in the blank, and what ever that nebulous thing is you want – it seems like it isn’t in your control to get it, so You’re Unhappy! If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

What happens now? You can annoy your friends, get in fights with your spouse or generally screw things up at the office OR you can change the rules. Re-define success. Instead of deciding you are successful when you have things that are not under your control to get, ask yourself what those things represent to you.

For example, maybe the reason you want all that bling crap is because you want to impress people. It may NOT be under your control to get a Rolex watch, but you can certainly become impressive without it. Be kind! Be smart! People tend to remember the person who encouraged them. Bling? They may remember your car, but not you. 

What if you think you need to be slender and attractive, ask yourself what that represents to you. Do you have an unhealthy lack of boundaries? Do you need too much approval? This one is more slippery than bling to deal with because so much consumer culture revolves around having the right image. Honestly, what people with healthy boundaries know is that a genuine smile is about the best way to look attractive. Warmth, openness, a friendly sense of humor – those things count for far more than height, hair color, nose size or fitness level.

One might say, Success equals peace of mind. When you feel good about your life you can handle stress and mild discomfort. Peace of mind doesn’t come from people patting you on the back, nor from them applauding your efforts. If you think it did, that may be why you feel frustrated. Peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best can be maintained even when things go awry. You won’t beat up on yourself any more.

Ok, so tell me something I haven’t heard on Oprah. If I’m supposed to feel fine with myself, but I don’t feel fine with myself – How Do I Get There ? ? Since you asked. . . start a yoga practice! Why yoga? Because it’s easier to wrap a concept around a framework. Asana practice gives you the structure to start. Try getting into these poses – try until you find one that challenges you. When you find the appropriate challenge, work on it! No one else can do it for you. No one but you will know when it’s right. Even after you accomplish your first challenging pose, if you stick with yoga you’ll learn that every pose can be refined.

Ok so you finally managed to grasp your ankles and fold forward – keep doing it daily and a year from now you will notice subtle adjustments in your posture. You add pranayama to your practice and everything kicks up a notch. What gives? I thought yoga was a non-competitive sport! It is. No one gives you colored belt. There are no ribbons.

Practice yoga to get away from these external motivations. Practice yoga to build internal motivations. Create pride in your own accomplishment. Perhaps, if you are shy, or awkward, or overweight just getting to the studio is a struggle. But you keep coming. You notice you feel good when you finish. You start to smile at the other students, maybe have conversations. There’s more than one meaning to “loosen up!”

Here’s a subtle truth about yoga. Yoga begins the moment you forget you are doing yoga. At some point you’re just being. The joy of having your body move overpowers any reservations. Erich Schiffmann calls it “moving into stillness.” I like to think of it as Peace throughly inhabiting your Self. You’re a star!