Did your family ever just get in the car and just take a drive to take a drive? Just piling into the car with no particular destination in mind, just driving for the sheer enjoyment of the scenery and time together.
Nowadays we all drive fast to arrive at a destination and never seem to have enough time to even get where we are going, let alone enjoy the ride. Joy rides seem to be a thing of the past when people were grateful to have a car and grateful to have spare time to just drive and be with family.
From what I have observed on social media it seems as though the idea of a yoga practice has suffered from this same intensity. So-called influencers encourage a practice geared towards attaining a goal, whether it is a tricky flow series or handstand or perfect triangle. Having a goal certainly is fine and often necessary to keep us interested. But do we really want our yoga practice to be as fraught as our time on the road?
We did an experiment last week which was to internally express gratitude for each of the movements that we did during a flow class. Kind of like you might do when driving through a beautiful landscape. We were encouraged to not push our asana, and just flow through — as though we were watching the landscape pass — then express thanks for our ability to be in the asana without striving to have it different. Even if the tree pose you were in wobbled to the ground.
You may think, "Isn't that how you are supposed to practice yoga asana?" Well, yes. But consider the messages we tell ourselves during class that reflect and are augmented by the media portrayal of yoga and by our culture’s contemporary way of being.
Being grateful for what is present is one of the highest yoga practices. The ashtanga path of the Yoga Sutras is given to yoga students who desire higher consciousness: We are told to follow ahimsa, to act without violence; to move forward with aparigraha, non-grasping; and to look for santosha, contentment in all things. The ability to appreciate the wealth of what is here in the moment is an aspect of the Goddess Lakshmi that adds a richness to life that cannot be obtained by "getting there.”
This month, as we investigate gratitude, perhaps we can start to look for this contentment in aspects of our life rather than always wondering how fast we can get there. It's a sweet challenge don't you think? Let me know how it goes. I will be doing the same.