September 3, 2016

Forget Yoga in the Studio: Do the Work—Sans Mat.

I spent my first few years as a yoga student trying to perfect my poses.

Then I became a teacher, and I realized that asana was just the tip of the yogic iceberg. Today—as a busy, self-employed single mom—I practice yoga all the time. I practice my yoga as I prepare breakfast for my daughter, drive her to school and myself to teach my corporate classes. This internal—mind, heart and body awareness “practice” moment to moment in my daily life, sometimes feels like being in an intense and slightly uncomfortable asana— it feels like “work.” It is work that feels more like practice. I actually don’t like to call it work. I have been working non-stop since I was 15—and to me, work doesn’t mean clocking in at nine, leaving at five and receiving a paper paycheck every other Friday. I used to think that was work, but now I think very differently about that word that makes so many of us feel tired.

In our culture, to work means some semblance of productivity, with an end result that equals dollar signs, material goods and perhaps a happy-hour or a weekend getaway. (Or something like that.)

All I know is that my inner-self needs a new definition of work—otherwise it is on the verge of collapse.

As a yoga instructor and lover of yogic philosophy, I am well aware of how powerful our minds are—that if we change our thinking around a concept, our whole inner world can literally shift, as if the tectonic plates of our mind suddenly quake, and new neuron pathways form. These inner shifts are sometimes called a satori—or awakening. When they occur, our happiness radar amps up; what was once black and white becomes technicolor.

I have friends that work “nine-to-five” jobs and trudge through the week, looking forward to the weekend. When I ask why, they say, “I can do what I want now. I can be happy.”

Being self-employed is hard work. I never really have time off. I have to answer emails or update my website, even when on vacation. Time off means I don’t get paid—at all. Recently this lack of real time off took a toll on me. I hit a wall. I felt wiped out and beat down. A training I had planned—that would have paid my rent and a few major bills—tanked. The clients that said they were interested, but backed out at the last minute. I panicked. How would I get by without this income?

Working in the holistic field, I constantly go back to my spirituality for solace. I freak out, and then I go inward. Going inward is made easier by a walk or jog in the woods. Among the cool shelter of the trees, I gain perspective on what really matters in my life: the moment. I am reminded that I am okay right here and now. I have fresh air, food in my belly and a healthy body. I begin to feel an attitude of gratitude for all that I have, which caresses my thoughts out of panic, or fight or flight mode.

What I have discovered in my journey to shift my perspective on what “work” is, is that a calm brain really creates a calmer reality. In essence, what we are doing externally doesn’t really matter. It comes back to taking a mindful approach to work. This mindfulness can come in how we take care of ourselves when we start to get stressed. Do we take five minutes to stop, drop and breathe? To just gaze out the window with a relaxed focus, and begin to let our body soften with gentle focus (if we can’t get outside for fresh air).

Most humans can’t sit eight hours a day without taking a break. No one really should. Mindfulness breaks keep us healthy, happy and heart-centered. And we know we are doing good work, when the weekend (or for me, any free time) comes, and we don’t feel it is much different than any other day.

Life goes by so quickly. We are here to savor each sip. In truth, one moment is no different from the next. Our minds make each moment different based on our perceptions of external and internal circumstances.

The union (yoga) comes in doing the good work to take great self-care, by honoring needs of those three parts of ourselves—body, mind and heart—in a way that fosters continued inner-harmony. When we do that, work and play become no different. And the exhaustion of fighting the difference will begin to disappear.


Author: Sarah Lamb

Image: Twitter @HiD610

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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