by Rian Bodner
I recently overheard a yoga teacher telling a student that if they kept practicing, some day they would be able to touch their toes. As far as I am aware there is no crystal ball gazing as part of a yoga teacher training. Let me assure you that there is no benefit in practicing for that “one day” to come. Starting from a place where you are falling short, no matter how loving you are about it, reinforces a self loathing and aggressiveness that depletes your energy and diminishes your potential. Touching your toes “some day” will not change who you are and fill you with enlightenment, truth, or spiritual ecstasy.
We must set up the conditions to experience our innate potential
Why does yoga make us feel good? At it’s very basic level, most of us feel some amount of stress or pressure during our day and need some place to let that go. But what if we got to practice not just to level out a deficiency, but actually began to have cash in the bank (energetically speaking). What would our lives look like if we began to practice not in terms of pushing ourselves in hopes of a “some day” end result, but in terms of creating the conditions to harness our energy now. To be able to withstand all of life’s pressures in an effort to experience our current potential and literally evolve ourselves.
First let’s understand what it is that we’re evolving; our Nervous System. We have two parts of our nervous system, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. The Sympathetic Nervous System is related to the primal part of our brain that handles stress. It limits our responses to “fight, flight, or freeze”. When we feel unsafe, ungrounded, or attacked this is the part of us determined to keep us safe. it turns off our creativity, and our ability to reason or listen. Our ego can hijack this system because it is the part of us that say “I am”. Anything that appears to challenge those beliefs of who we are can be seen by the ego to be an attack on the self. Ifwe are wrapped up in believing “I will only continue to be who I think I am as long as this one possibility exists”, our bodies will constantly be in a defensive state. On the other hand, our Parasympathetic Nervous System controls the higher centers of our brain, allowing us to respond rather than react with kindness, compassion, and creativity. When we practice to strengthen our nervous systems and create clearer pathways for our energy to be focused and distributed, we also begin to evolve the higher centers of our brain. We free ourselves from the slavery of our egos and open up to the possibility not just of what we think is possible, but to the highest creative consciousness we can open ourselves up to expressing. The more we create the conditions to embody our current potential, the more freedom we have to evolve.
When we wake up, we don’t know whether we’ll make the train, be nearly bumped by a girl on a pink scooter, fall in love, find out our great uncle is in the hospital, be serenaded by a musician with a questionably tuned guitar, help someone with their luggage, hug a friend, or even what we’ll have for lunch. But we do know we will think a lot, make assumptions, seek attention, have questions, have our patience tested, be misunderstood. We’ll be given opportunities to connect, help, learn, pause, smile, frown, engage, wonder, and feel. The only thing we can do is build the endurance and acceptance to handle everything that comes our way. That is what yoga gives us. It will all happen. The question is, are we preparing ourselves to shut down or show up?