I often find myself asking to the people coming to their first Yoga class to tell me what do they expect from the Yoga practice.
After a first and understandable moment of embarrassment the given answers are almost always the same: relaxation, mental well-being, stress management, stretching and toning muscles, quieting the mind, controlling, and more. A very few, luckily, are looking for enlightenment. Almost all beginners of Yoga have an idea that by practicing Yoga, it will be possible to eventually get away from daily/mundane problems and eventually just around lazily with the forefingers touching the thumbs, a perennial faint smile and a vacuous look in the eyes. Nothing farther than this has been my personal experience with yoga but to be honest, when years ago I started my path into the practice, these ideas were part of my prejudices and resistances.
I proudly considered myself a passionate and romantic person, I was afraid that through yoga I would become an insensible and impenetrable receptacle, distant from everyone and everything, incapable of suffering but also incapable of passionate love. The mind is very quick in categorizing and creating boxes to allocate experiences that life offers to us. But luckily for me, once I got closer and began to have a better understanding of Yoga (in small doses and in spite of resistances of course), my point of view began to shift and I even signed up for a Yoga teacher training and eventually became a teacher myself. Because of my own inital assumptions about the practice, it is not too difficult for me to comprehend the ideas and expectations present in the by the neophytes skeptics of this practice and as much as possible I try to convey my personal experience and understanding , specially about the relationship between yoga and emotions, feelings, being in love and love itself.
Love... so many times in a every single day is this such a word mentioned! We find it written and spoken everywhere, from commercials, to newspapers, magazines (especially ones targeted “for women”), movies , conversations among friends, colleagues, families and last, but not least, in Yoga seminars and workshops. “Very well!” we could think. Better to speak about love then other things, and generally I agree. But which kind of “love” are we talking about?
Let’s have a look at a realistic situation. For instance, a couple: Him and Her (just to keep it simple but this can obviously apply to any type of couples). They meet, there’s a connection, feelings arise, emotions burst, sweating augments, pupils dilate, spontaneous giggling erupts, desire to spend time together increases and your new love is now prioritized above anything else. Funnily enough, these symptoms sound like those of peple who intake substances of other sorts (so I”ve been told). But we call it “falling in love” and we are very happy about it... so happy that we start to affect the people around us and alienate friends that can no longer bear our continuous blabber of the qualities of our lover. An unabiding energy moves through us all day and nothing distracts us from the thought of him or her, from the moment we wake-up to the moment when we go to sleep... sometimes even following us into our dreams.
Beautiful! Wonderful!... and I say this without sarcasm. If everything goes well he and she meet assiduously, depending on the distance from where each other lives, but nothing seems impossible or unsurpassable, a true force of nature surmounting any possible obstacle: “Amor Omnia vincit”. ”The more time goes by…the more I love you” was the refrain of a famous commercial... or so it seems.
Then the first quarrels emerge. Soon, jealousy creeps in, a sense of possession fuels us to believe that the other belongs to us and must love us. At this point , since we are “truly” in love, we believe that everything is due: love, time, faithfulness and security. Sometimes we get married to be sure to have all of this also in writing but always claiming the right to relinquish all of it when we think we are not anymore in love with the other.
The way I’m describing the couples may appear irreverent, but do not mistake me, I’ve got an enormous respect and affection for the lovers who work through their challenges and manage to stay together for all their life. Being fundamentally a romantic type of person, which alas, hasn’t changed very much in spite of Yoga and life experiences, the sight of elderly couples holding hands fills me up with sincere joy and hope. But we were talking of love and loving.
Let’s rewind the tape, let’s go back to when he and she fall in love and let this feeling be really the chance and the way to open our heart to the world. Let the strength and the infinite energy of love be the ways to let us see with clarity the reality around us and better appreciate everything we were taking for granted. So we can fully appreciate the love and kindness of our family and relatives; we can rediscover and deeply experience the closeness and presence of our friends regardless the difference of opinions or point of view; we can finally open up to the world by finding a new and more harmonious way to relate to colleagues, people we meet, and even the people lining up with us in the supermarket or post office. We can move forward and forgive those we thought may have hurt us and thank them for what actually has been a contribution to our personal growth. We expand the powerful feeling of loving only our partner to whoever we come across on our path, moving closer to that image of “union” that is fundamentally what yoga is.
Even within our romantic relationship, it is important to stop and move back into our hearts with our partner with a sense of love and consciousness to remember the feeling of yoga. Before asking for anything from our beloved, let us be totally mindful and honestly ask ourselves first what we are willing to give, if we are capable of loving with an open heart and without expectations, recriminations or reassurances. Let’s acknowledge if we really care about the other’s happiness without conditions or restrictions, even when we feel not included or cut out. Let’s recognize if we really believe in a form of faithfulness that’s not dependable on a sense of possession but that arise spontaneously and from a personal choice which cannot be imposed on the “other”. Let’s ask ourselves if we are willing to accept lightheartedly and without fear both happiness and pain as the inevitable other side of the same coin. And let’s finally see if we are really able to forgive in the true meaning of it by letting go of the past, by living the present and moment by moment learning to Love.
Difficult? Maybe! But worth the try! It will be a wonderful opportunity to apply the universals principles of Yoga to our daily life and relationships, integrating the theory and practice and to fully relish each moment of our existence.
And about emotions, passion and feelings... do you still think you won’t get enough by implementing Yoga to you life? Good Yoga and Love to everybody.
Shirley Falchi, Yoga Teacher affiliated to Hari-Om Yoga School
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