a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Practice Anyway

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I hope that you are still following the blog of No Impact Man. He has a lot to say about changing the world. He also talks a lot about how change can make us happy. Lately, he’s been asking us to not just talk about change or to simply give up some of our excessive consumption habits, but he’s asking us to take the next step – to be pro-active. So, if you have already changed your lightbulbs, stopped eating meat and driving your SUV, but don’t know what to do now – read this post where NIM says, “When It Comes To Saving The World, Just Try, Try, Try.” (Then search the word, “happy” and see how often his efforts have made him feel that way.)

It’s something that’s been in my thoughts a lot lately. I’ve been teaching some new yoga students and I’m reminded of what it’s like to be a human trying to do something new – something that we know will benefit us in the end, but in the moment it mostly seems inconvenient, awkward and/or difficult. Because I’m the old-school trained teacher, I emphasize the importance of using discipline and will to move through the hard parts.

In fact, by watching and listening to many yoga students over the years, I’ve written my own account and philosophy of the 3 stages that we all go through. The first stage is Arrrgh  – the hard part, the second is Ah-ha, when things start to make sense, and the 3rd is Ahhh, when you find the ease in the effort – the happy. I’ve also emphasized that without the struggle, yoga would be useless. For example, one student thought she was simply not cut out for yoga, coming to me to say, “I’m not strong, I’m not flexible, and I can’t focus. I don’t think yoga is for me.” My response went like this:

“If you came to me and said – I want to do yoga because I’m strong, I’m flexible and I have great focus – I would tell you that you don’t need to be here.”

I’d also like to share one simple definition of yoga that comes from the ideas of the great and enduring teachers. Yoga is simply doing something you could not do before.

So, yoga, as life, is about growing up and out and not just accepting change, but making it happen – whether it’s within ourselves, within our communities or in the world. It is about the work. It is about simply trying. And in the end, it’s about the freedom and happiness that comes with discipline. That’s why when my students come to me with all the reasons they cannot fit yoga into their lives, they hear two words – “Practice anyway.”

So, I want to point out that maybe this changing the world stuff is not supposed to be easy. What we can gain – personally and otherwise – just might come from the fact that we had to try. If you struggle to drive less, try anyway. If you struggle to use less water and electricity, try anyway. If you struggle to do something you haven’t done before, like talk to your congressman about change, try anyway.

What you learn from a yoga practice translates directly into how you are in your life. And how you are in your life translates directly into how we are in the world. It’s up to us to make change happen and to make ourselves happy along the way.

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