The Freedom of Discipline

Yesterday afternoon I drove down the snowy road from Whistler to One Yoga For The People in Vancouver to devotioncatch some classes with Ryan Leier, who has just returned from a month of study with BKS Iyengar in Pune, India. I will assume that if you are reading this blog that you have an interest in yoga, and so will also assume that I don’t need to explain who Mr  Iyengar is, but if you were at all unsure he is one of the greatest yogis of our times and to study with him is to study with a master. I have been keen to check out one of Ryan’s classes for a while and was thrilled to see he was hitting Vancouver after his time in Pune. There were about fifty or so students that gathered for the workshop last night and we all sat close as Ryan shared his stories about his time at the Iyengar Institute, and his experience with the Lion of Pune , who at 94 years old is still fiercely committed to a daily practice of pranayama, asana, and study and as a result  has the powerful presence of a much younger man. Ryan is obviously already a passionate yogi, and someone who has been devoted to practice for a long time, and yet you could see that his time with Iyengar had sparked a renewed commitment to sadhana, or daily practice, that was thrilling to be around and I could have listened to him talk all day!
All of my teachers have always stressed the importance of a daily practice, done with devotion, over a long period of time. Regular practice they told me is the most effective method for clearing mental/emotional obstructions in life, healing the physical body, and deepening connection to source. And my own commitment to practice has been inspired by their devotion to theirs.  When I was new to the practice of yoga I was carried along by a faith in the practice that was inspired by my teachers, and ten years later I can say without a doubt that that commitment to practice has changed the trajectory of my life for the better. The discipline of regular practice has allowed me to access a freedom from conditioned behavior and self-destructive habits that I never would have dreamed possible in my life prior to the introduction of yoga.
Yoga studios are full of people that want to make changes in their lives. They want to heal a broken body or a broken heart, they want to access greater peace or manage their stress better, they want to become more skilful in adapting to the pressures of life and move with greater ease and grace. And yet the concepts of both discipline and commitment are still seen as too steep a price to pay. We have become a culture of instant gratification, shallow relationships, and easy rewards, and yoga simply doesn’t work like that. It offers lasting change, but it is not a quick fix, it can offer us so much, and yet we won’t get it for free.
In this mornings class with Ryan he spoke at length about the value of having a personal practice of yoga, independent of the classes we enjoy at studios, and strong enough to withstand fluctuations in our schedules and changes in our lives. I was thrilled by this conversation, as it is one that I have always felt passionate about and  so I loved it when he asked everyone to get into groups and identify their obstacles to practice and make a commitment to just three asanas for daily practice. He didn’t say do three hours of practice a day, he said start with just three poses, but do them everyday. This is so key in creating change. Start small, identify your obstacles, and create a strategy for dealing with them. Another key is sharing your intentions with others who support you, (like the folks in your yoga community) and spending time with people who are more disciplined than you are (like your teachers!).
Each year I have a key word that is a distillation of my personal focus for the year and this year my key word is Inspiration. I want to be immersed in a stream of inspiration that uplifts me and continually calls me to evolve, and I want to be channel for inspiration that I can offer to others. In order to both receive and offer inspiration I must be plugged into something larger than myself, and the best way that I have learned how to do that is to practice. Every day.  And because I have found this to be so valuable in my own life and have seen that many people struggle to maintain momentum with it in theirs I will be making a commitment to offering more programs that will support people in integrating yoga, and it ‘s related practices, into the fabric of their everyday lives. Programs such as my Yoga Lifestyle Coaching Program done online, my master classes for yoga teachers done locally and on the Island, my teacher training programs, and my retreats (specifically my Living Foods~Living Yoga Retreat and the Autumn Illumination Retreat, which I am really excited about), have all been designed with this in mind.  If this is the year that you want to make the shift to empower your own practices I hope that you will join me at some of these events.  In the meantime please share in the comments below what small steps you are committing to in 2013 to deepen your personal practices of health and wellness. Let’s spark a conversation around this and support each other in making change!