Usually, when I teach a big class, I don’t talk much about yogic philosophies. On the one hand, my time is limited. On the other hand, many students who attend such a class are casual practitioners whose goal is fitness. I don’t want to steal time from their workouts.
One day, before class started, I discovered to my delight more than half of the students’ present had been joining my classes regularly for months. In that moment, I suddenly asked,
“Does anyone still remember how you felt about doing yoga the very first time you tried it?”
Some students immediately answered,
“I almost died!”
“I was so tired!”
“It’s so hard!”
I inquired further,
“Then, why do you want to continue it?”
A few students replied,
“Because I can get a better body.”
“Because I feel good after I finish.”
“Because I can become healthier.”
I continued my line of questions,
“Has anyone ever thought that they should consistently practice yoga till you complete all yoga postures or become an expert?”
“It seems impossible in my lifetime.”
“Oh, I hope it will happen, but maybe many years from now.”
“I would be content with half of your ability.”
Then I replied,
“No matter what your reasons for practicing yoga, please enjoy the process. And during this process, it may include comfort and discomfort, as well as happiness and sadness.”
After the class, Student A, who generally attended this class once a month, came over to me.
I was very interested when you talked about “enjoying the process” during today’s class. I don’t know why, but it made me want to laugh out loud after finishing the class. I feel so happy now! Am I not a neuropathy, am I? But I really want to share with you!
What kind of happiness are you feeling now?
Suddenly, Student A burst into tears.
(sighs) I have never had such a happy feeling. It’s like my heart chakra is really opened. I have been trying to open my heart wheel since I started to practice yoga, but I finally felt I would never open it, not completely anyway.
So, you mean you feel happy because your heart chakra is finally open?
She paused for a moment.
Not exactly. Maybe it’s just in my head, but like what you mentioned about the process: today I concentrated on the process during the whole class. I kept watching myself, not just focusing on how to open my heart chakra.
Another student, who was attending my class for only the second stepped forward.
I have a question: what you’re saying is about the attitude toward life, right?
Please tell me more about it?
Most people, and me as well, we always have some goals in our lives. But oftentimes, in order to pursue these goals, we ignore what we have been doing during the process. Like what you just said “enjoying the process”, I feel that I can be closer to it all the way. I just found I usually don’t pay much attention to what I’m doing in the moment. Originally, I wanted to say that I am too old to learn yoga, but now I feel that I really did the right thing by coming to yoga.
Before I left the studio, Student C, who regularly attended my class once a week suddenly approached me and asked if I could provide more of my opinions. She expressed that it could help her think deeper and wider. She said that she had been practicing yoga for more than ten years, but she always felt that she was missing something, and she had been constantly asking herself, “Do I want to continue practicing yoga in the same mode?” Lately she had been looking for this “missing” piece. In order to seek out the reason for such a feeling, she had been trying to practice various yoga styles or exercise in different places, including personal studios, commercial studios, gyms, sports centers, community colleges, etc. However, she still felt empty.
Your words today, suddenly made me realize what I’m missing. In fact, I just need to bring it into my own life. Like the eight limbs, koshas and so on talking about in yoga…… it is just to go back to myself…… such as I have to observe anything…… like what you yoga teachers often like to talk about…… something like knowing……
(nodding) Yes! Awareness! It is awareness! What I didn’t do is to investigate myself seriously and carefully, so that I always felt like I missed out, like I had lost something.
As I was leaving the studio and stepped into the sunshine, I felt satisfied and contented. I had no expectations when I shared those words, but I shared truly and sincerely in that moment. I was so amazed by all the feedback that I received.
Many people start their yoga practices with their own purposes in mind, such as wanting to deepen their knowledge of yoga postures, or improve their yoga breathing skills. Some people want to have better health, and some of them seek peace of mind. In fact, no matter what the purpose is, we can consider and ask ourselves,
“Do I achieve my purpose and become to excessive pursuit?”
<<Yoga Sutra 1.3>> mentions, “The Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.”
The roughly overall meaning is, the real I live in myself.
Michael Lee, the founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy once mentioned, “awareness of what is happening”, which means being aware of what is happening now. Just like the feedback from the three students above, “seeing what I am doing”, “paying attention to myself” and “seriously observing myself.”
When we are aware of ourselves, we enjoy the process. When we are enjoying the process, we are in the now. When we are fully committed to be in the present, we will not be worried about the “results” (future), or look back at the past.