Another resonant quotation I heard the other day springs to mind. It's attributed to Albert Einstein. It says:"There are two ways to live your life. You can live as though nothing were a miracle. Or you can live as though everything were a miracle".
We have a choice. Perhaps this is a little binary, but you get the idea, and it's hard not to see breath as a miracle.
When we bring ourselves back to the essentiality of breath, the seemingly miraculous side-effect is that the whole nervous system calms down, we physically alter the chemistry of our body, and this in itself can change our minds. When we're in touch with our essence, we feel naturally more balanced. We feel a balance between inhalation and exhalation, between take and give, between gravity and natural lift; between the density and lightness, darkness and light in our bodies, and in our minds and spirits.
So, again, yoga comes down to how things feel. When we feel calmer, we are calmer. When we feel in touch with our wholeness, we are whole. When we feel connected, we are connected. It just takes trust. When we feel these things, there is deep balance that undercuts distinctions between work and life. The beauty of life is that we are always whole, and always connected, so all that practice really is is remembering how to feel it.
This may or may not resonate with you. Perhaps you feel most whole and most connected doing something other than yoga, and perhaps you don't need to think about it. It might be walking, surfing, singing, cooking, being with animals; we must do what we feel works for us. But we must also move towards an understanding of yoga that isn't limited to classes labelled 'Yoga'. Yoga often starts in class, but ultimately there is yoga in everything. Some even say that yoga is everything: everything is yoga. Yoga is what puts you in touch with yourself in a way that makes you feel your wholeness, what makes you find your balance.
And if getting in touch with yourself means that you realise parts of your life aren't working for you, then yoga might well help you to open your mind and heart to possibilities you might not have previously seen. Human potential is always bigger than we perceive it to be, so it will always be more than a life's work to move closer to it. I don't know about you, but I feel there's something deeply reassuring about that.
Camilla Walker, March 2017
- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
- Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, trans. Swami Satchidananda
- Calligraphy images from The Way Out Is In: The Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh