In the book How Yoga Works, Geshe Michael Roach explains that yoga only works if you are doing it for someone else. The Captain in the book suffers from back pain and his teacher guides him through yoga postures daily, but informs him that the work he is doing will only bring him healing if he does it for the gain of others as well as himself.
Sometimes my kids make fun of me and because I am “so yoga” and laugh about my devotion to all things yogic. But I know they secretly love it and I also know that they will grow up and be very grateful that they were raised by a yogini-mom. My open body has helped my mind and heart to also become more open and through this I can allow my children to be who they are.
When I began dipping deeper into a yoga study and practice, I believed my prayers had been answered and that I had found a worldly path to less anxiety and more peace in my heart. I wanted to go to a yoga class every chance I got and would even get a little antsy if too much time passed between visits on my mat. I started to need yoga. It was all about me.
One day in class, my teacher told us that it is not selfish to save time in our lives to practice yoga because when we leave our mats we are calmer, more present and more emotionally accessible to our loved ones. It confirmed that I wasn’t crazy for thinking that I was a better mother because of my yoga practice. Over the years I have seen my old friendships deepen and my new friendships flourish much easier and more quickly. I have let people in and taken chances the same way I take chances on my mat by surrendering when I’m afraid of feeling too much sensation and going for that arm balance when I’m afraid of falling on my face. As I have learned to ask myself what I need on the mat and give myself breaks, I am learning to ask others for what I need and cut myself some slack when what I need is to check out and get still. But best of all, I am more interested in encouraging the important people in my life to ask me for their needs and let me experience the joy of helping and loving them with compassion and empathy.
My son played his last middle school soccer game last month. They were a great group of kids with a lot of heart and a mediocre record. A friend of mine came to that game and commented on how great they were playing and how much they had improved over the season. Even though he’s mine, I know my son is a good little soccer player, but that day he seemed more passionate and focused than I had ever seen him on the field. He’s a team player, but he also loves a hat trick whenever he can get one. On this Thursday afternoon in May, my son never took a shot, even though he had many opportunities. Instead he would take the ball to the goal with all of his might and pass it to one particular teammate, again and again. His friend scored four goals that day and they ended their middle school career with a big win. It was about a week later when one of the other boys from the team’s father died. My son was really sad and we talked about what we could do for him. It was in this conversation that he told me what was really going on in his last soccer game that season. The boy he kept passing to had lost his father the year before and that Thursday in May just happened to be his father’s birthday. Right before the game, he told my son that he was going to score as many goals as he could that day for his dad. Tears welled up in my eyes when I asked my son if that was why he kept passing to him and not taking any shots, knowing that the answer was yes. And standing there in my kitchen while making dinner for my little family, I saw that whether the ones we love and cross paths with ever practice a single sun salutation, yoga works and works and works.