Many years ago, I went to a yoga class when I was on a vacation in South Carolina and the teacher kept saying things like, “this pose isn’t for you; it’s for someone else” and “give away this pose”. Every time she would say things like that, I would bristle.
What do you mean, this isn’t for me?
This time that I’ve worked so hard to carve out this time for yoga practice? This warrior 2 we’ve been holding here for an eternity? This backbend I’ve been attempted so diligently? These millions of rounds of kapala bhati? This busy mind of mine that I’ve been working to understand for years in my meditations? No, no, no. This is ONLY for me!
Then back in October, I went on a retreat with my best friend. The whole weekend was only for me; it was a girls-only weekend getaway reminiscent of the road tripping my friend and I used to do together back in our college days.
Several times throughout the weekend, Natalie Miller, the retreat leader, would say something like, “be generous to yourself.”
To be honest, going on that retreat felt like a big splurge, one that I felt a tad bit guilty about, but with Natalie’s reminders I started to remember that by practicing yoga, by setting aside a whole weekend to practice and just be, I was giving a very generous gift to myself. And it was a gift I deserved!
All weekend long, I noticed that I was more patient with myself when I didn’t know what to do. I was more forgiving when I messed something up. And above all, I was more curious than judgmental about my reactions to things.
But the unexpected thing was that all of the amazing benefits of my generous practice time ended up working to the benefit of others.
I didn’t feel flustered when the drive home took an hour longer than usual and I ended up 10 minutes late for a workshop I was teaching. My husband noted how relaxed I still looked and acted, even the day after I returned home. I felt undisturbed by the giant pile of laundry that had accumulated in my absence, something that otherwise would have caused me great angst.
You get the idea, right?
So I guess you could say that it just took me a really long time to learn the lesson that teacher was trying to impart in that class so long ago when she kept telling me that my yoga practice was for someone else.
Yoga practicing is an act of generosity and the benefits extended well beyond the practitioner.
Now as we are sitting at the end of the season of giving, I offer you a challenge. Come to your yoga practice this month, not because of a New Year’s Resolution and not because you are committing to change something about yourself.
Come to your practice as an act of generosity to yourself. Because you deserve it!
Practice and practice often. And notice how your practice benefits you and also everyone around you. It’s the best way to keep the season of giving happening all year long.