A Metaphor for Life

When we were younger our teachers asked us to write compositions. Sometimes you were given a topic, other times you were given a series of pictures and asked to develop a story based on the images shown.

We are older now; no one is asking us to write compositions but oftentimes we still choose to do so. We scroll through social media (or general media) looking at images of people’s lives and we begin composing, developing stories based on the snippets we see. Yet like our young selves we are heavily using our imagination; we do not know the life between the pictures. And through our imagination of the lives of others, we cast judgement upon our own and form thoughts about how we think we are supposed to be.

My mind goes to the above whenever someone tells me they have to “slim down” before they can start a physical yoga practice or they have to work on their flexibility before they can begin yoga. They have a version in their head of what a yoga practitioner is supposed to look like and often it’s a thin, flexible gymnast type, which does not align with who they are and immediately precludes them from starting the practice. To start they usually believe they have to get closer to the “standard” mold.

Well, there is no standard mold; the mold is you.

I am aware I say this being a thin, reasonably flexible person but my appearance is genetics and lifestyle choices and even I can’t currently do many of those extreme strength or flexibility poses I see on the Internet. Also, you have no idea how long it takes to get the perfect yoga image or video clip. You don’t see the warmup before the split; you just see the split!

Your Journey is Your Own

Come to the mat as you are and go from there. There is no competition. I often tell persons joining my class “Your journey is your own”. You must listen to your body and let it guide you. The person next to you may be able to touch the floor in a forward fold position while you can only reach mid-shin. If you feel a nice stretch on the back of your legs in that position you are doing well; you’ve achieved what you need to do within the capabilities of your body. If you need to use a prop (block, strap, blanket, etc.) to help with proper alignment, go right ahead. Your goal is not to look exactly like someone else you’ve seen executing a pose; your goal is to effectively navigate the poses working the areas of focus without causing yourself injury. Bit by bit, through consistent practice, you will improve. (Note there will be variances due to body structures.)

Similarly in life, you navigate your journey without casting immense judgement upon yourself, especially if your current situation does not allow you to be in the same position as someone else. Keep working towards your goal and with consistency, you will improve.

I’ve always thought of yoga as a metaphor for life so it was great to see this quote from Madonna: “Yoga is a metaphor for life. You have to take it really slowly. You can’t rush. You can’t skip to the next position. You find yourself in very humiliating situations, but you can’t judge yourself. You just have to breathe, and let go. It is a workout for your mind, your body and your soul.”

The takeaway here is: Give yourself some mental space. Be kinder to yourself. Someone’s life is not your life; someone’s practice is not your own. Walk your path proud.

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