My Yoga, My Responsibility

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal responsibility– especially with regards to my yoga practice and the yoga that I teach. Injury is serious, especially in advanced yoga classes. Everyone knows someone who has hurt themselves. Ryan Leier, one of my dear teachers, talked about this the last time he was here in Vancouver: “I’m not going to talk so much about your kneecaps, because I trust that you all know what to do with them”. That trust is vital because it empowers me be conscious and honest within my own practice.

But I’ve been talking about kneecaps in my classes– maybe too much.

Yoga is a tool for me to practice taking responsibility for myself. On my mat I reconnect with who I am and with who I want to be. Yoga gives me the strength and the peace to go out into the world and live the life I want to live. I think that most people who stay with their practice do so because it teaches powerful lessons about personal responsibility. The practice of yoga allows us to be honest and to be present– to take responsibility for our actions and our thoughts.

But yoga teachers do have an enormous responsibility to their students. They are responsible for providing a safe environment and finding a balance between challenging students and protecting them. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to take responsibility, both physically and emotionally. Yoga is intense– it brings stuff up and can be hard on the body if we’re not careful. So each yogi needs to take responsibility for themselves every time they practice.

I feel so lucky that my yoga practice teaches me how.

Part I: Where the heck did my motivation go?

According to the Yoga Sutra’s, there are some predicted obstacles that arise while on one’s path. And, I think these obstacles arise on any journey whether it yogic, meditative, artistic, athletic, even corporate. We ALL get stuck, in a slump, in a rut and simply cannot be bothered from time to time. So, how do we get out of it?

Well, let me just say this, some words of caution if you will. These ruts can last a very long time if we don’t do anything about them, and I am speaking from experience. If you don’t find a way out, life could eventually evolve into a dense fog making it even harder to navigate.

Anyway, remember that old G.I. Joe saying, ‘now you know and knowing is half the battle’? I believe one of the first steps to overcoming obstacles is to know what your obstacles are. According to the yoga sutras, the most common are:

  • Physical ailment (disease, mental or physical disease)
  • Indifference (no willingness to stick to your responsibilities)
  • Doubts (giving up not based on anything reasonable, low self-esteem)
  • Carelessness (lack of persistence)
  • Laziness (a passive approach, no will power)
  • Restlessness (overactive senses)
  • Delusion (not living in reality)
  • Inability to reach higher experiences (poor practice, self-deprecation)
  • Non-retention of experiences (frustration, instability)

Ah-ha! So, you are familiar with these too? At least we are not alone, not in the least. It’s pretty natural to experience obstacles. They ARE a part of the process and they can even make life a bit more interesting. What’s not so great is that if we fester in our obstacles, they can lead to other consequences like weight-gain, sadness, depression, physical and mental ailments and totally insane levels of frustration.

It is also important to point out that these obstacles weren’t always obstacles. They are manifested distractions. Meaning, you crossed paths with a distraction (you know what they are: fast food, incessant sofa-surfing, cosmopolitans, chocolate donuts, etc.), it got your attention, you made an engagement with that distraction and now, lucky you, have you an obstacle and all its conveniently disturbing qualities.

So, in a way, we are pretty much responsible for creating our own obstacles. Doesn’t that make you feel better? Perhaps not, but there’s hope.

Stay tuned for Part II for overcoming obstacles and getting your motivation back.

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