I want to focus on Acceptance today as the intention for practicing Yoga both on the mat and off. This theme is on my mind today because I’m struggling (again!) with tendinitis in one of my shoulders. I was thinking about how I used to take Advil before class when my shoulder hurt, so that I could do my practice without pain. Over time I realized that I’m not doing what’s best for my body by masking the pain and ignoring the strain I was putting on my shoulder. This is not the ‘yoga way.’ Part of the Yoga philosophy is to practice acceptance as we encounter the limitations of our bodies while we’re doing poses, and to learn what if feels like to balance effort and comfort in our yoga practice. This is an acceptance of life as it is which can then be applied to everyday situations outside of the yoga studio.
Let’s face it there are always things that are happening in life that challenge and frustrate us, whether it’s major events or minor happenings. We can easily get into the ‘if only’ syndrome, where we say to ourselves, ‘if only this was different in my life, then I would be happy.’ I started to notice how frequently I had this ‘if only’ mindset, and began to work with it by asking myself “does this thinking keep me from enjoying this moment?” If the answer was yes (which was usually the case), I would consciously move my mind away from the thought and say ‘accept this’ to myself. Sometimes it worked better than others. Over time I’ve found that it’s easier to accept the things that frustrate me when I know that I can’t change them.
There’s nothing passive about practicing acceptance. It doesn’t mean that we should just take whatever comes. What it means is that we can discern the difference between the situations where acceptance is necessary, because life circumstances don’t offer us choices, versus the situations where we need to make more efforts to find a different solution.
Try noticing for yourself, whether you’re practicing yoga on your mat, or in the bigger world, what your mind is saying when you run into a difficult pose, or a life situation that requires a coming to terms with not being able to get rid of life’s constraints.