The Yoga of a High School Reunion

January 9, 2013


I was recently asked to write a short biography for an upcoming high school class reunion.  This got me to thinking about what I'd learned during that time in my life ,and I realized that there was one insight that's fundamental to yoga.

Like most teenagers, I was socially awkward, shy and very insecure.  Parties were a torture because I never quite knew what to do.  What I discovered, however, was that if I put a huge smile on my face, immersed myself in the music and let my body move, within 20 to 30 minutes I was happy.

Inadvertently and at a very young age, I had found one of the secrets to success: as we think and feel, so shall we be.  Or, in the words of the Ramayana, a classic Hindu epic: Believe it and make it true.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says, "When harassed by doubt, cultivate the opposite mental attitude"(II.33).

Cultivating the opposite mental attitude, however, is not about repression, which stuffs our "real" feelings into our cell tissues.  The process is really about redirecting our minds, much like we redirect a 2-year-old's attention when we substitute one toy for another.

Our yoga practice helps us focus.  While in the studio, we forget our cares and our agendas and leave our worries behind.  We feel better after class than we did when we arrived.

The reason yoga is considered a practice is that what we do in the classroom has implications for our daily lives.  When we become annoyed by someone we're living with, for example, can we acknowledge the feeling but redirect our attention to the gift of the relationship or the way the light and shadows play on this person's face?  Can we, at the slightest hint of discomfort in a situation, find the love?

Yogah citta-vrrti-nirodhah.  "Yoga is the ability to direct and focus mental activity."

Nancy McCaochan, an M.A., E-RYT 500, taught freshman composition at a small technical college in Southeastern Ohio before moving to Michigan in 2001 to study yoga with Jonny Kest. Because of her varied background, Nancy has a pragmatic approach to yoga. Her motto is "breathe, be aware, and do what works for you." Nancy's primary influence is Krishnamacharya, but she also studies shamanism and is currently exploring Kundalini yoga. Nancy's classes are breath-based explorations of inner space.

The more we do this--on and off the mat--the easier it becomes.

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