The Yoga of Quitting (or Future Suffering is To Be Avoided – Sutra 2.16)

Two years ago I was holding it down as a mother to a 5 year old, a yoga studio manager and yoga teacher, a full time safety professional, a part time housekeeper, a sometimes Pintrest mom and I started losing my hair. It fell out in clumps. I was doing way too much and my body was clearly communicating the flashing red sign of STRESS. So I quit doing it all. I QUIT.

c6a2cad04bd5924188ad918b5a512219I didn’t quit all at once, because I still had the wrong headed modus operendi of achieving. I quit small things first – like I quit having fun or I quit socializing or I quit enjoying life. But as my hair kept falling out, and I looked at a big clump of it one day, I decided to quit trying to be all the things. Because WHY? I was bringing suffering into my own life, caused by my own wrong efforts, and exacerbated by a need to always be more.

It was more than hair loss – it was also manifesting as infertility.

After years of struggling to achieve conception and dealing with what I thought was infertility – it turns out I was dealing with stress. Stress was leading to hormone imbalances and medical issues and what I discovered was I wasn’t allowing the joy of living to filter into my body – I was actually blocking life. I was doing that to myself; I’m sure I’m not the only one.

If you read this because you Googled “fertility, yoga, stress, pregnancy” or something similar – what are you so busy doing that you could quit? What’s blocking your life force?

I’m 36 weeks pregnant, about to birth a baby in a month and the busy-life is here calling me again. I’m not answering it. I’m cocooning. My meditative focus is simply on my family. What does this have to do with yoga?

I still look to the Yoga Sutras for those answers:

  • Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind – 1.2
  • When that is accomplished, the yogi abides in their own true nature – 1.3
  • The changing states of our mind can be harmful to our focus – 1.5
  • Yoga practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind – 1.13

I could go on and on with the sutras supporting us to assume a role in life with full force and focus. I can rewrite these sutras to suit my circumstances and goals. Personally, today, I want to still the mental fluctuations and focus them onto birthing and raising this new baby. Right now, my true nature is mother and life vessel. If I take on too much, I might harm my primary focus, which should be a healthy baby. The effort to stay focused on this process is challenging.

Yoga is never the poses you are doing, it’s not a physical exercise, it’s a mental way of living. The Yoga Sutras can teach us about motherhood or painting or dancing or postures or meditation or anything we wish to do well. And yes, we can indeed do more than one thing well,  but we can’t do ALL the things well, ALL of the time, ALL at once. Something will always break down.

If you discover that you begin to do some of your tasks poorly or that your health begins to suffer, you cannot really be truthful to yourself that you are living your life well concentrated – you are then bringing harm to yourself and ignoring what is one of my favorite yoga sutras:

  • 11849790_1642484662630447_540587482_nFuture suffering is to be avoided – 2.16

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to quit something that isn’t serving your highest good. Listen to that nagging voice in your head that is asking you why you struggle – maybe that something doesn’t matter as much as you think. Maybe you can let it go and let yourself be ok without it.

Takeaway: Settle in and take stock of what’s not serving you in life. Make a commitment to quit ONE THING – it can be small, but declutter your life of unnecessary tasks, people, things, or feelings.

Rediscover Joy.

To My Readers and Students: Thank you so much for sticking with me in my absence. Thank you for finding ways to practice and keeping connected even while I’m on a break. I never forget you, I never quit you, and you always inspire me, even when we aren’t face-to-face. 
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Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.

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Once upon a time we were told there are two things one never talks about for polite conversation: RELIGION and Politics.  This practice leads one to wonder, if we can’t discuss it, how can we understand it?  If we can’t understand it, how can we change it?  If we can’t change it, how can it evolve?  Enter Yoga.

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga. ~SwamiJ~

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As part of our 500-hour teacher training at Prairie Yoga, the group went on a field trip to the Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple in Aurora, Illinois.  Why did we do this?  The tour guide explained it this way:

“I’m not here to convert you to Hinduism, I am here to educate you on what we practice.  Comparative study of religion only helps one to better understand their own faith and own self.  Religion is a tool towards God-realization, different people need different tools and so thank GOD that we have so many paths of understanding.”  ~Sadasivan N~

This man offered up a message I wish we could all hear.  We don’t have to be RIGHT – what would happen if we all just existed together in a kind of harmonious agreement to respect individuality and mind our own business?  After all, the mentality of “I Am Right,” is so arrogant, if God exists, what must God think?  The guide also mentioned this:

“I’ve never been dead, I’ve never met God, so I cannot tell you what you should or should not believe.  The person who tries to tell you what you should believe is probably selling you something.”

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Some people feel deeply uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of yoga and that’s OK – no yoga teacher should be asking or instructing people to change their faith – that is not the yoga teaching as laid out in the Yoga Sutras.  In fact, yoga isn’t even about your teacher – it’s about what they may inspire within you to explore within yourself.  YOU are your own best teacher.  No sales pitch needed for that.

I can recall a moment from a teacher training with Shiva Rea in which she said this:

“The Yoga Teacher is like a river guide; pointing out what is nice to see, but the one being guided has the ability to look in another direction.”

Some may disagree and that’s OK too.  Personal truth, personal experience, personal belief systems are PERSONAL – yoga offers contemplations to study your own self, your own beliefs so that you becomes more clear about your personal understanding of life.

As I continue to educate myself on Yoga, study my own life and my own beliefs, the resonance of my teachers is clearly influencing my teaching, but I add my own flavor because it is just my own perspective developed through practice and that is all we can share.   No dogma allowed.

As you seek to study yoga, the depth of which you practice may change over time – there is no doubt that once we access that connection through the physical practice of Asana, we open a door and light comes in.  That is what is scary to people, the fear that you may begin to doubt your own faith is real.  But through doubt comes more study – through more study comes more understanding, with more understanding comes more compassion, with compassion we have less judgement, etc… and what you may experience is that through practice, your faith is strengthened or changed, but then again, no journey ever leaves you exactly the same.  As Mahatma Ghandi reflects:

“There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. It transcends the senses whilst everything around me is ever changing, there is a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and recreates.”

 

Yoga Sutra 1.1 – Atha yoga anushasam

And NOW Begins my Yoga Blog.

The word sutra is akin to threads of truth, so these Yoga sutras are concise directives on how to approach a path of self-discovery. Although there is some controversy over the dating of the literature, a commonly accepted age is 200 BC. Think of this philosophy as a map to take you out of the tangled web of ceaseless thought. As we resume our Yoga Sutra study, let’s refresh with a look at the first one.

Yoga Sutra 1.1 – Atha yoga anushasam

This means – and now the practice of yoga. NOW – not when you become more flexible, not when you lose weight, not when you quit your wine-a-day habit, but literally – right now.

This also means, yoga is not just an approach for class, it’s an approach for daily living. In the noise of life and the photos of young, skinny yoginis in hot pants doing contortions, the real meaning of “Yoga” is lost. Yoga is union – union of consciousness with practice. This can be breath to body movement, the joining of solar and lunar energies, or even the simply linking of your mindfulness to everyday things like eating.

A common phrase for this attitude is “Off the Mat,” Those practicing yoga postures in a group setting (Asana Practice), already know the wonderful feeling that follows the class after the final relaxation of Savasana. BUT – what is more important is how you can take that feeling and then apply it to your daily tasks.

  • Can you be conscious and aware while you wash your dishes?
  • Can you hold your peace when your teenager cries and yells at you?
  • Are you fully experiencing each bite of the food on your plate and taking time to notice the impact on your body?
  • Are you being kind to people be it in the midst of a traffic jam or a long line at the grocery store?

In these three simple words – And Now Yoga or Atha Yoga Anushasam – is a thread to link to living life well and with intention. It means that once you begin your yoga practice, you link it to your whole life so that every moment is a chance to practice being a better version of yourself.

If you are interested in learning more about the sutras, stay tuned throughout the year, come to class, and above all – just keep practicing.

Namaste. Kirsten

P.S. This post was originally posed by me on the Senara blog back in May of 2014.  I thought it timely to share again as I begin my own blogging adventure under my own name.  To enjoy the original post – follow this link: http://senarablog.com/2014/sutra-study-yoga-sutra-1-1/

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