Last year, I began a project using the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as a framework for looking at gentle parenting and mindful living off the mat. I left the series for awhile as I explored some natural tangents into Buddhism. But, I’m ready to return to the Yoga Sutras. I’ll begin with my original post in the series here, reflecting further on Sutra 1.1 in a later post. I hope you enjoy this reboot.
Saving-face: Adding second-face to the preface
Or the esoteric subtitle: Introduction to the Mama Sutras
Sutra 1.1: “Now is the Time for Yoga” Part the First
One of the projects I am exploring with TouchstoneZ is life off the yoga mat. And I plan to do this by thinking about and utilizing “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” in daily life, which means mostly while parenting and spousing (or espousing, as the case may be.) So, for those not familiar with the Yoga Sutras or even yoga, I reassure you (please bring those glazing eyes back into focus) that this will be accessible to other parents (especially the crunchy ones) regardless of any interest in Yoga.
I spend a good portion of my time practicing Yoga “on the mat.” By Yoga, I don’t just mean yoga asanas, or postures that you perform in a studio on a sticky mat. Asanas are a preparation for the body to be able to sit comfortably. But, Yoga as a whole really is just a way to practice how to sit comfortably with emotions, physical sensations, outside stimuli, and philosophical ideas (both deep and shallow.) I think most people are more familiar with yoga as an asana class, and this familiarity with one limb of Yoga is readily accessible to understand the whole. If you’ve ever been in (or seen) an asana class where the teacher asks the students to hold Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II) for an unreasonable amount of time, then you can begin to understand what I mean. Imagine you are standing in Warrior 2 (please stay with me now. It’s a meta-four, ya’ see) and your front thigh begins to demand your attention, along the lines of the unreasonableness of holding the pose for one moment longer. Thoughts arise, such as:
- I can’t believe she’s making us stay here this long.
- My thigh hurts. It’s screaming.
- Easy for her to say, she’s walking around the room while I’m in pain.
- My old knee injury from college track is cropping up now.
- I can’t do this.
- I’m not doing this.
- Insert your own personal complaints here.
And whatever other things that you brought with you to the mat, such as:
- I knew this would happen.
- Look at him, he can do this pose so much better than I can.
- I shouldn’t have come to this class. No one else is struggling.
- I suck at yoga. I’m never coming back.
- Insert your own personal self-flagellations here
This is where the Yoga asana as meditation comes in. Without Yoga practice, I would follow those thoughts, like hopping a train speeding along the tracks, to the end of the line: unhappiness and suffering station. Taking my practice on the mat, to stand in Warrior 2, and remain, still and steady with all these thoughts going through my head (along with the grocery list, my eighth grade spelling bee experience, a conversation I’d had that morning, whether my comfy jeans were in thedryer, etc, etc, etc, ad naseum) without evaluating the thoughts as good or bad, is why I practice Yoga. Sure, it would be nice to have the body of that lithe ballerina b*tch in the front row, but I what I really want is to be able to sit with whatever thoughts and feelings arise in me without allowing them to rock my world. I would like to be in the habit, especially when a 4 year old presses my buttons, “These thoughts just arise as a natural occurrence in my brain when it meets a point of resistance, of unreasonableness. My thoughts are not me. My mind is not me.” However, my mind is quite clever (if I do say so with humility) at finding every route to getting me on board that train to the end of the line. My daily Yoga practice is like my free pass to get on and off the train wherever I wish, finding new tracks when the old ones are not serving me.
Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? It is ideal. My real world is like my sticky mat were covered in vomit, snot, slobber, cereal, hugs, kisses, energy, and exhaustion. So, I have to learn to practice Yoga even with all this crud covering it. I can’t wash it off and I wouldn’t want to. It is my life that I have chosen. If I want to be the parent person I want to be, I need Yoga practice. And I need to find ways to practice it off the mat because, as a parent of three small boys, even Yoga off the mat is a luxury that is necessary.
Read more in Do You Know What Sucks? PPD Sucks: Part the Second, Sutra 1.1, “Now is the time for Yoga”
Even if you have never been in Warrior 2 in your life, I will bet you can remember a situation when your thoughts tried to talk you out of doing something. How did you handle it? Did you catch a ride on your train? Were you able to observe the thoughts, be with them without judging them, and go ahead anyway?
Other Posts in The Original Series: