I’m still getting over my disappointment at not being able to attend Wanderlust (an annual yoga festival that is an “an all-out, ecstatic celebration” and “an adventure of mind, body, soul, and sea”) in North Shore Oahu last weekend.
As you can see, it was magical.
On Sunday evening, I was on the ground mindlessly going through some arm-strengthening exercises before settling in to edit for the night when something clicked and I found myself in full headstand (Sirsasana) — a pose that has taken me one year of rebuilding my body strength and four months of actual headstand attempting to achieve.
Everyone has things that come naturally to them: for some people, headstanding comes as easily as if they were born headstanding. I’m not one of those people. It’s been a journey that has resulted in lots of headaches, neckaches, bruises, almost crashing through a couple walls, and, at the start, frustration. But. All of that makes it infinitely more rewarding than any of the poses that do come naturally and easily to me. (And now I can continue strengthening my headstand while I work toward all of the other poses and variations that still elude me.)
Yoga has been a big part of my journey since moving to Hawaii. As I’ve been thinking about the highs and lows of that journey since that huge high Sunday evening, there are three things my practice has taught me that particularly stand out:
1. Being Present. One of my favorite things about being on my mat is that everything else melts away. For my ninety minutes of practice, nothing exists except for one breath that dissolves into the next, and the next, and the next… It’s like the waves of an ocean. Always changing, always formed and tempered differently, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker, but never ceasing and always perfect. Breathing is something that is so natural and basic that most of the time we don’t even think about it, but I’ve come to view it as something sacred and incredibly powerful. It is the thing that binds us to the now — the present moment that, really, is all that we have. We live in a very fast-paced and forward-looking (or past-dwelling) society, but when we tune into the breath we are instantly grounded into the absolute most important thing: the present.
2. Being a Non-Reactive Observer. Human bodies are strange things. Undependable; transient; always changing. Some days I feel incredibly strong, capable of anything. Other days those backbends that normally come so easily just won’t happen. One day my balance might be rock solid; the next, I sway like a palm tree in a hurricane. In my practice this last year, I’ve learned that it’s all okay. I’ve learned to meet my body where it’s at, and accept. I’ve learned to Observe, but not react. Observe my strengths and my places of challenge; observe my flexibility and my stubborn sticky points; observe the mind chatter and negativity that might try to encroach… but never react. Detach. Observe. Let it go.
3. It’s Not About the Destination. Like so many other things in life — including LIFE itself — yoga is about the journey, not the destination. It sounds cliche, I know, but realizing and accepting that truth (for both yoga and life) has been hugely important in my own life. I think it’s easy to spend all of our time working and striving towards a projected idea of our “ideal” reality, or what we think that should look like. While having dreams and goals that we pursue is good and necessary, feeling somehow incomplete, lacking, or unfulfilled because we’re not there — whether it’s because we can’t manipulate our body into the current Instagram #yogaeverydamnday photo pose craze or because we don’t like the way our life looks at the current moment — doesn’t serve us and completely misses the point. Some day we might get there, but if we’ve failed to embrace the journey along the way I imagine it would all seem a little lackluster. (Or we may never get there at all… and then, what a miserable life!)
My mat is a safe, magical space of peace and healing. Its edges are boundaries that no outside chatter, stress, self-criticism, doubt, or negativity are allowed to cross. It’s a place where anything is possible, but nothing is required except to simply be and simply breathe. My mat is where I return to find myself when I get lost in the clutter of my mind. My mat is where my practice starts, but not where it ends. Although nothing can trespass into that space, the magic that happens on the mat overflows into every aspect of my life.
Do you have a space in your life like that? I’d love to hear about it!
**For more information on Wanderlust, future dates and locations, and how to attend, visit the Wanderlust Festival website.