My yoga practice has taught me a great deal about overcoming obstacles. It used to be that every one of my emotions was tied to the events of my life. The good things that happened brought joy and happiness. The bad things left me feeling less than, depressed, and victimized. The way I saw it, everything happened to me.
I let the obstacles that came up serve as a direct source for my emotional state. I neglected to see my part, my perspective. It was exhausting.
If there is anything my yoga practice has taught me, it is that obstacles will come up. In ever-changing scenarios, I can expect to discover challenges. Life can be smooth and easy one minute, and suddenly something comes in and rhythm is disrupted. Sickness affects routine, laziness takes over, or indulgences turn into cravings. Important aspects of a practice are neglected, the turnings of my mind distort my reality—the list goes on.
In a discussion about overcoming obstacles, a teacher of mine once commented on how so many of us stray from our center when challenged. He compared this to what we would do if the world were coming to an end. Would we spend our last minutes protesting the inevitable, or would we come to acceptance and find peace in the chaos?
My yoga practice has taught me that although obstacles will present themselves, I can take each one of them and discover within myself a better way to respond. I have a chance to develop a better way to live in adversity, a better way to serve those around me. I have an opportunity to discover compassion for my struggles, and in turn, develop a deeper compassion for others.
Transforming the Dark Night
In A Lamp In The Darkness, Jack Kornfield writes, “Grief and loss and suffering, even depression and spiritual crisis, the dark nights of the soul only worsen when we try to ignore or deny or avoid them. The healing journey begins when we turn toward them and learn to work with them.”
When I first came to yoga, I found this ability to work with obstacles came fairly easily in asana practice. The more I struggled against a challenging pose, the harder it was for me to find contentment in my body’s abilities. Alternatively, when I attempted that arm balance with a dose of humility, I could understand that my expression of the pose was right where I was supposed to be. The obstacles that came up began to teach me the extent of my strength.
Taking Yoga Off the Mat
It was not long until I began to use acceptance of obstacles off the mat. What I learned while I was falling in yoga class was the falling was a chance for me to look at the other areas of suffering in my life. I started to look at where the suffering was actually coming from. The poses I was attempting weren’t frustrating on their own; I was the one bringing frustration into the situation.
The irritating driver weaving through traffic wasn’t irritating; the irritation existed in me alone. I started to realize and acknowledge the benefit of the obstacles I was encountering. Each one gave me an opportunity to respond better. These challenges became chances to limit my entanglements.
Overcoming obstacles is at the core of my practice. I aim to detach from the weight of the emotions that tie me to the challenges that inevitably arise in life. My yoga practice helps me focus my mind. When I focus, I can begin to release any distorted views I have. I learn to see the world differently. I learn to see the opportunity in daily ups and downs.
Yoga has become a tool for welcoming grace into my life. Obstacles are inevitable, but my attachments to them are not.
by Stephanie DeStefano
Stephanie is writer and yoga teacher based in California.
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