Living Your Yoga

There may come a time in your life when you are physically unable to unroll your mat and practice the beautiful yoga poses that you’ve come to know and love.

Maybe it will be an injury, a high-risk pregnancy, or a sick child that needs your attention.  Maybe it will be a challenging time that you can’t even imagine right now.  How will you handle this?  Will your day be ruined because your routine has changed?  Will your inability to physically practice destroy your spirit?  What will happen to your self worth when you are unable to backbend or balance on your hands?  Will you feel tremendous disappointment and anger because you have lost this part of your identity? Or will you tap into everything you know about the non-physical aspects of yoga and TRULY begin to practice?

I’ve had to face all of these questions over the past few weeks as my physical yoga practice came to a screeching halt.  I didn’t want to give it up, but serious circumstances made it nearly impossible to continue.

Earlier in the month, I moved with my family to Philadelphia to be nearby the children’s hospital, where my 8-year old daughter received a kidney from my husband.  Just imagine—two patients, two different hospitals, and lots of stress.

After the transplant, any free time outside of my daughter’s room in the intensive care unit was used to visit my husband in the adult hospital, take a shower and change my clothes.  Arm balances weren’t happening; Inversions weren’t happening; Backbends or splits weren’t happening.

In the weeks leading up to the transplant, it certainly crossed my mind that I would probably lose strength and flexibility as I became a full-time caregiver, but once the surgeries began, these concerns slipped away.  I was not struggling with a loss of identity as a yogi.  On the contrary, I felt like I understood yoga in a new way!  I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but over the past year, I internalized a thing or two about the non-physical side of yoga—particularly the yogic principle of non-attachment, or Aparigraha.

What is Aparigraha?By now, you probably realize that yoga is more than a series of poses.  It’s a lifestyle with a full set of philosophies behind it.  Aparigraha, or non-attachment, is just one of of the principles of yogic philosophy.  When we practice aparigraha, we practice the act of letting go.  When we hold tight to anything (i.e.,  expectations, attachments, people, objects, etc.), the act of clinging weighs us down and makes us captive to whatever it is that we try to possess.

In the example of my own life circumstance, I have been able to move forward with my days peacefully, despite the loss of my physical yoga practice.  I’ve been able to do this without disgruntlement or anger because I did not attach my self worth to my ability to practice yoga poses.  I was able to enjoy my mat and experience it fully when it was there for me, and now that it isn’t, I’m okay.  It will return.  I understand that life isn’t static.  It is dynamic, often changing, and always providing a new opportunity.

This week, I invite you to practice non-attachment.  Let go of your expectations, and see what happens.  Enjoy each moment, but do not become a prisoner to the joy of that moment.