My teachers’ teacher and the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, said that yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice. Guruji was not only referring to the asana, or the physical practice of moving through poses, but also the yoga off of our mats… where the yogic rubber meets the road of life.
Life is not perfect. It is a practice.
As a strong air element, a philosopher, and an eternal student, my tendency has always been to spend most of my time in my mind, trying to “figure things out” and make things perfect. But the mental process of deliberating can often be counterintuitive to health, happiness, and harmony. As Albert Einstein said, “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.”
The experience of life has been quick to teach me that theorizing does not equate to dream fulfillment; In order for theory to manifest in the physical, practice must be involved. Life as a practice implies an intentional focus of energy.
Practice is alchemy. Consistent and sustained effort turns coal into diamond, lead into gold. Engaging fully in your practice demonstrates to the universe/divine/God/dess your unwavering commitment to your dreams.
And it goes to say that this effort, this work, it never ends. So—find an ease in that effort. The Yoga Sutras assert that we must move from a space of effort without tension, and a state of ease without dullness. There is a sweetness, as well as a steadiness, involved in the practice of life.
The shadow side of my Virgo moon tends toward strong perfectionist tendencies. Once I began to adopt life as a practice, I found my penchant to be über self critical and nit-picky soften. Imperfection did not seem as such a death wish. Failure seemed much more forgiving.
Even the greatest stories of success involve several largely unarticulated crash-and-burn failures. But what the recipients of these successes have in common is their willingness to practice, to show up.
A huge part of practicing is showing up.
There is something deeply beautiful about showing up. A courageous willingness to leap into the unknown, showing up may be one of the most difficult tasks you will encounter in life. It requires you to be seen, to be vulnerable, to be exposed in all your guts and your glory. But really that first step, being willing to show up and be, lays the foundation for future success to be built upon. Just think of it this way: if you do not practice, if you do not show up, you have zero possibilities for success.
Life as a practice grounds you in the present moment.
When I remember to flow through my life as a practice, I feel more immersed in my experience. I let go of attachment to an end product and reinvest myself in the presence of the process. This immersive presence of practice becomes both wholly grounding and incredibly freeing in all areas of my life.
The practice paradigm can be incredibly helpful in releasing stress: exorbidant and burdensome demands imposed upon you by society, your loves ones, and, most of all, yourself. If you are just practicing, it does not matter so much if you fail. If you are just practicing, you feel content putting forth your best in that moment and no more. If you are just practicing, you enjoy the journey more and worry less about the destination. Life becomes lighter, freer, and more fun.
A few weeks ago, I heard an amazing story about the brilliant 20th century visionary and inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller. At one point around midlife, he found himself on a dock overlooking Lake Michigan. One end of a strong rope was tied around his ankles and the other, around a cement block. He was ready to end it all. In that moment, he heard a voice say, "If you do this, your life is a throw away." His response? "Well, hell! If my life's a throw away, I might as well do it my way." He untied the rope and went on to hold 28 patents, write 28 books, and receive 47 honorary degrees.
The life of this man went from being a perfect, a performance, to a practice, a passion. With his life as a “throw away,” it became more about what was right for him than what was expected by others. When he took on life as practice, he turned away from everything that wasn’t aligned 100% with his bliss. Because really, why practice something you don’t even enjoy? He started having fun with it. He started loving his life.
Because practice truly is an act of love. It is a symbolic gesture that says, “I give a shit.”
So, practice moving your body and it will translate into a strength of being and an ease of motion. Practice eating real, clean food and it will transform into a medicine and tonic for your body, mind, and spirit. Practice listening to your intuition and it will metamorphose into invaluable wisdom and unrivaled counsel. Practice your service to something greater than yourself and it will alchemize into a golden heart and a gift for the world.
Is your life your practice? How can you embody this paradigm? What is holding you back from doing so?