How yoga changes the story.

Check this out: our lives are comprised of story. As a writer, I like this particularly well. It connects me to some original intention– worlds and their perceptions have to be created from something, by some chance of energy and interest. (It also justifies the indecent amount of time I spend turning memory and fleeting glances into fiction.)

We tell ourselves stories, too. I just told myself one in that paragraph above. It was a cruel little left jab at my writing habits. See it? It’s a samskara of mine. A scar, to put it another way, or a pattern. Like getting caught in a fishing net and using it as a hammock. I cling to the story because nap time in hammocks is damn comfortable. The thing is, after a while, I don’t like the rope burn. So I look for ways to unravel my samskaras. It might be the entire point of life– finding this liberation from fishing nets. (Somehow, turtles are always the best metaphor.)

So what’s the best way out? How do we curb unhealthy patterns? Yoga says first we pay attention to them. In the light, they start to fade. Magic. Then we see how they’re made. How, exactly, are those knots tied?

We’re all works in progress. Weirdly, the hardest progress to make is the quiet acknowledgement of our own innate goodness. We talk tales about getting hurt, getting angry, getting screwed, getting even. But how about some humble talk that includes, ‘I did okay today’ or ‘I liked the way I handled that.’

Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves fail to include the happy bits. The moments of success and heroic kindness that we achieve. If we leave out these integral plot points for too long, the story becomes much sadder than it needs to be. It also confounds reality. We fail to see ourselves as we truly are– essentially good, just a little pock-marked by patterns.

Which is where yoga comes in. When we practice our physical postures, we move through another story. Each pose has a beginning, a middle and an end; we move in, hold, move out. Our bodies follow the breath, our minds sense the movement, the movement sparks curiosity about our potential. We have these quiet moments to acknowledge our limits, our triumphs, our failings. All without much consequence. If we’re trying to find perfection in the pose– if we think there’s a giant #1 and a trophy to be awarded by achieving the best asana– we miss the point of the story. We also neglect the happiest, funniest, most satisfying plot points– when we wobble, open into our edge, or opt out completely. We don’t need to achieve a pose. We do need to listen to the story it’s telling us. And in that story, we might acknowledge the best parts of ourselves: our stability, our determination, our courage, our change.

As you practice your yoga, on or off the mat, consider the stories you tell yourself. Do they include the good parts? Do they cast you as a kindly hero? Do they recognize that other people are okay too, especially if you’re okay with yourself? Once you see your scars, like magic, they’ll start to let loose. And you’ll have taken a step along the path to the best happy ending– freedom.

(Also, once you’re free, you can nap in hammocks anytime.)

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