Our biggest obstacles can often come from a surprising source: ourselves!
How often have I heard myself say “I can’t” or “That’s not me.” These reactions are just stories I have made up over time.
After a few years of regular yoga practice I am finding my stories are shifting, changing, and I am opening up to a lot of things I never thought possible. One of the really important parts of yoga is svadhyaya – self study without judgement. The hours I have spent on the mat have been like a little rectangular laboratory for my life in general. I have found that over time, with practice, the obstacles I thought I faced faded away. At first, I could never find my breath, or stick with it, my mind was so busy. Now I adore breath work, and find it can calm me down easily. Also, I used to look at some of the poses and think… well…someday…? Hahaha! Then one day during practice, I would just pop up into a pose I thought was far out of reach for me. Isn’t it freeing to know yoga is a practice?
Here are some other stories I have changed, despite perceived obstacles.
I went to do my yoga teacher training at age 52. I spent a month off-grid on a mountain, on a farm, in Costa Rica. It was life changing. I loved it. No I was not “too old” to do this. Age is just a number.
I somehow own a yoga studio! My background is in public education. It could be perceived as a pretty good fit, if being organized, being fascinated by people, and building community are the prerequisites to owning a business. I have learned to stop second guessing myself, and make decisions with my heart and what feels right rather than telling myself that if I “knew more about business” I would know what to do. I love Get Yoga and am so so proud of it.
For a long time I told myself I still had brown hair. Well, what a story that was! An expensive, time consuming and itchy scalp story. I don’t even know why, but one day in January I decided I had had quite enough of that. I grew out my (not brown) roots for 3 1/2 months and then got all the fake brown chopped off. Hello freedom! I like being who I really am, and my short silver hair does not fall into my face when I do downward facing dog.
One of the biggest stories I have told myself since I was a kid is that I am clumsy and non-athletic. I still think it is partially true. Despite this, I have always been really active, loving the outdoors – whether I’m gardening, doing wildlife photography, canoe trips, or cross country skiing. I hike virtually every day on the trails around my house. Late June this year I thought “I wonder how it would feel to RUN this trail?” So I started running a little bit. Walked a bit. Ran a bit. And so it began. Over the summer I have been really good about getting out 4 or 5 mornings a week and running the hilly, forested trails near my house with my little dog Walter. It has been an absolute joy. Yesterday my daughter in law Katrina ran and hiked 24 hours in the BC mountains to raise money for the Alzheimers Society. I wanted to be with her and support her in some way, so I decided to run the last three hours (here) with her. I wanted her to know that during those early morning hours when she was finishing up her trek, I was with her in spirit. I headed out to the conservation area this morning at 7:00 am with Walter, and we started running. I held Katrina in my mind, and just kept running. I only paused a couple of times to get a banana or some water, then carried on. Before I knew it, 90 minutes had passed, then 2 hours, and then I only had 20 minutes left. Honestly , I could have kept going even after 3 hours. But wisely, did not. Walter and I ended up running 20 kilometres this morning. The most I have ever run in my life before was 11.5 km. I guess I am a runner. That, by the way, is a brand new story.
I think there is so much power in our stories. What we tell ourselves shapes our lives. These obstacles that we see in front of ourselves are so often made up. Our stories can keep us trapped in a limited circle of existence and we are afraid to break out of the familiar, even if the familiar isn’t even that great.
The practice of yoga has taught me to look inside and be fine with what I see there. It’s taught me that it’s ok if I have my own unique way of doing things. It’s taught me that my circle of experience can be so much wider and I can find so much more freedom and joy in my life if I change my story to say “ I can,” and “Yes, that’s me.”
Leslie Sept. 1, 2019