New year, new beginnings
Even as we close a chapter and open the door to the future, how do we make sense of change?
Our yoga practice equips us with a map. Not one with cartographical lines and legends, but a terrain anchored by a compass of wisdom teachings. Our practice and study of the yamas and niyamas avails us to the teachings of yoga, and it is only through a conscious application of these lessons that we begin to experience shifts in our body, breath, and awareness.
More than ever, 2020 was the year that put our practice to the test. A global pandemic shoved us, without much warning, into new ways of being. Gatherings with loved ones could only be enjoyed via virtual meetings. Restaurants, yoga studios, and public spaces we frequented also shuttered temporarily. Even our homes became isolation pods of sorts, and for those of us fortunate enough to work remotely, our dining table doubled up as our office desk.
Yet, as traumatic as the year has been, it made room for good things to surface. During lockdown, we spent more time with our loved ones, gathering for meals and board games instead of dining in front of digital screens. Without the commute to the office, we had a little more time to sleep in, put in a session of yoga, meditate, or simply enjoy breakfast with our children.
Above all, without the ability to travel, we began to journey inwards. Did we find ourselves landing in a place of peace? Or did we find ourselves suffering when our minds started yearning for the lives we once had? Here, it is useful to recall the words of author Eckhart Tolle: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
Indeed, as we enter the new year, we learn that this traditional cusp of change is one that we have already been navigating throughout the course of 2020. On paper, 1 January 2021 might signify a brand new year, but our inner journeys had already begun long before that. Maintaining stability in our life might be good and comfortable, but without the shock of change, we will never make room for the transformations and epiphanies just waiting to bloom.
One of the beautiful learnings from yoga is that we don’t really find stability. Rather, we discover balance and flow. We learn to sit with our discomfort; we befriend it rather than prickle with aversion. Guided by the rhythm of our breath, we flow with the ability to act while letting go at the same time. For the planners amongst us, having our best laid plans thwarted can be a frustrating experience. But when we have learned to flow, we act without clinging to a specific outcome, enjoying the ride as it comes. If we thrash against the currents, we misdirect our energy to a source that will only continue to beat us down.
The practices we develop allow us to apply an appropriate response to any situation. Given our limits and the uncertainly of the environments we live in, it is not always possible for us to remedy a situation or maintain status quo. What we can do, however, is respond in a manner this is appropriate for the situation – nothing more, nothing less. This ability to do so usually arises when our heart and mind are in a state of equanimity and able to take in the moment fully. So even as your muscles strengthen with the ability to fold into asanas, be sure to pay attention to your mind, your breath, and the meditative practices that help to balance them all.
Finally, let us give thanks for the wisdom that 2020 has imparted. We bring these lessons into the new year, which is a clean slate that bears no relation to the year before. Each new year brings new opportunities. Yet sometimes, in our confusion, we are unable to identify opportunities for what they are. Some will be transformative. Some will fade. Some might never return. However, don’t be anxious to seize every single opportunity that knocks on your door. In doing so, you might miss the forest for the trees. Instead, do like the best surfers do – study the waves, watch them as they crest and break. Resist the impulse to ride them all. Wait patiently for the right wave. When it finally arrives, you’ll find yourself with the energy, stamina, and ease to ride it gracefully to the end. As we count down to the new year, we hope that your yoga practice will continue to help you ride the waves that 2021 brings.