“Yoga is a lifestyle. Do not refine your life for yoga, but let yoga refine your life” – Master Sree. I wish I could put into words to show how much this statement has increasingly held true in my life, over the course of consistent yoga practice for a month with Master Sree and a group of 5 other amazing women.
The statement was made by Master Sree to the class in Week 1, and over the subsequent 3 weeks, he has consistently driven in the belief that we’re each on our own path, and we do not have the right (nor should we) engage in the petty judgement of others – the perceived differences that we may not agree with, and neither should we let things of the material world define our identity. My key takeaway from this was to approach the world with greater acceptance, and stemming from that, conscious detachment, especially to the outcomes of actions, situations and life. This does not mean that we don’t practice empathy, but while we understand and feel the extent of things happening in our lives, we don’t fixate upon the experience or the outcome. We let ourselves grow from it.
Yoga as a chosen lifestyle
Yoga is a lifestyle option that people choose to live by, choose to participate in, choose to integrate in their lives. There are many aspects in yoga philosophy that overlap with modern day mantras of practicing self-kindness, self-care, a focus on mental health, and also religious doctrines of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and more. The beauty of it is that the underlying principle is an acceptance of all varied beliefs, experiences and viewpoints. Everything that a (rational) person embodies and believes at a given point in time, is completely valid. The person has chosen a particular course of action or belief based on what he/she thinks is best for himself/herself, and his/her appetite for acceptance of a certain mantra, doctrine, response etc. What is medicine to one is poison to another, and this holds very true for yogic belief (in my opinion, at least). Master Sree gave an example in class once about the concept of healing. He said that depending on what the person believes, he would have to tailor his healing to suit the individual. For a person who is religious, healing would touch upon more spiritual aspects, but if a person believes in science, healing would gravitate towards a scientific explanation and solution. Ultimately, it is about what works for the person, and based on the answer (spiritual, scientific, anything else) given to the person, can it help the person gain the conviction to push through and overcome the obstacles?
As such, I have chosen to integrate some core principles of yoga into my life simply because it works for me at this given point in time. The practice of yoga makes me feel more at peace in a world where everything seems to be so unsettled, so confusing, so uncertain. It makes me feel like while everything around me could revolve to a state of utter confusion and uncertainty, the onus is upon me to remain positive, remain strong, and keep my conviction towards the pursuit of the path(s) that have seemingly opened up for me, and walk away from those that have closed too. I believe in the divine shaping of my life and as long as I approach life with a positive and strong mindset, things will work out!
Yoga as an individual journey
I know this is cliché, everybody says it. However, I think everyone says it because they have experienced it and it really holds true. You just gotta experience it and internalise it for yourself. The beauty of this is that you can take the principles from this state of “yoga being an individual journey” and apply it to all other aspects of your life – relationships, family, career and anything else that matters to you.
When I first started practicing yoga as a beginner, my practice was heavily centered around mastering poses. I inevitably kept comparing myself to those around me – my friends who were doing yoga, the other people in classes and thought to myself “okay I need to improve and improve and improve”.
However, throughout the course of the practice, you start to realise that yoga is so broad that there’s really no ONE measure of what is considered “better” or “worse”. It really depends on how you want to use yoga to enhance your life, and how you want to integrate it into your life.
Some practitioners prefer to focus on the more meditative aspects, while others want to focus on the physical aspects, and you can’t definitively say that one is better than the other. It’s really about what works best for you. Nonetheless, I would say that a desire to foundationally understand yoga philosophy should underpin the choice.
Furthermore, we’re all built differently. Some body structures make entering and training for certain postures more easily than others. While we tend to compare what can be seen most easily (aka comparison of the achievement of postures), there’s really so much more that goes behind the scenes and affects the outcome. Thus, I have learnt over the course of my yoga practice and YTT not to fixate on achieving postures too because ultimately, it is about the process and the mindset going into it, not the outcome.
Yoga as a form of reprieve from a world that tends to be competitive
In the light of the above that I shared, one thing I love about yoga is that it is fundamentally not about being the best or even better than other people – it is truly about being the best version of yourself.
In a world that teaches you to outsmart and outperform others in order to achieve “success”, for yoga, “success” is based on your own individual terms and based on your own parameters. The beauty of it is that understanding that it is purely your own journey reflects a deeper walk in the yoga journey.
This brings me so much relief, contentment and peace in this very competitive world.
Detachment from social situations
As someone who struggles with being too emotionally involved with many social interactions in my daily life, the fundamental concept of detachment has been a good principle to adopt in my life. Master Sree gave the example of a floating lotus – one who is in the water, experiences the water, but is unaffected by the water. I hope to be able to adopt this mindset in all aspects of my life where I feel the most of life but am able to not fixate upon certain outcomes, emotions and experiences that I go through.
Moving forward, I want to be able to fully practice this, practicing both self-care and self-kindness.
I feel that one of the most important things is to keep our intentions pure. Only by doing so will we be able to let go of the outcomes of various situations that we are put in. I use social situations as an example here because of all the things in life that we seek to control, other people (their actions, behaviours and attitudes) remain fleetingly out of our grip. This is why it is difficult to let go and change outcomes because we cannot change other people. Coming to terms with this and being able to practice detachment will help us (me) deal with the uncertainty of life when it comes to the other. I feel that this will have a profound impact on how we handle many things in life that come at us – a job opportunity outcome, our friendships, our relationships, even life/death.