I have learned a lot about myself through my years of practicing yoga. I know I was a good person at the outset of my yoga study, and I am a good person now; however, I am different.
In Baptiste Yoga, we learn from and go on to teach others from: “you are whole, perfect, and complete.” This is the presumption from which to approach self-discovery-focused learning. An ability to acknowledge this notion is what set me free to learn, without being defensive or putting power and responsibility into the hands of the teacher to decide anything about who I am or what my journey can be. It has stopped me from thwarting my own growth through self-doubt. It is a state of mind to assume I am not broken; there is nothing to fix. The guiding principle of being whole perfect, and complete has defined my experience as a student and a yoga teacher.
Adopt this Mindset and Belief
I didn’t come into my study of yoga knowing I was whole, perfect, and complete. It is something I discovered along the way. Without deeply embracing this understanding, my experience would have been wholly different. Likely, I would have quit many years ago or gotten wrapped up in blaming others for my perceived failings. I know myself enough to recognize the probability of subconsciously finding ways to keep myself untransformed; it is safer.
For me, fear has often been what stops me, and change presses right into the center of fear. Change of self, well, that would have been impossible. In all ways, my default would have been to fight for self-preservation, which seems defendable, but would have only given me more of the same. Remember, even from whole, perfect, and complete, nothing has to change yet; life isn’t stagnant. My yoga experience is not only one of personal growth but is tied to the performance of a yoga-based business. Things happen and have to be engaged with; sitting life out isn’t a possibility. I have confronted my fears and accessed new outcomes by first accepting myself as whole, perfect, and complete, exactly as I am.
Living life from the mindset of “life presents challenges, and because I am already whole, perfect, and complete, I can then engage with its challenges in new ways” is risky. There is no way to hide from mistakes or assure me of being right in vulnerable situations. There is no way to be safe from potential hurt with this perspective. Risk is inherent. However, it is the only way I am aware that has a quality of aliveness instead of each moment being fraught with survival.
As human beings, we crave meaningful connections with others and to live a creative life. Inherently then, life has a natural process of change as it unfolds. In fact, staying the same in the face of life unfolding is an action that causes suffering. Another name for this is resistance. Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to cause suffering.
Take it off of the Mat
When I discovered there is more to yoga than exercise, it was through another quote commonly used in all styles of western yoga: “off the mat and into the world.” This is the access to how yoga was created and practiced in eastern cultures. They began their yoga practice by knowing yoga as a tool for living life. So everything I am doing in all aspects of life is my yoga practice. My personal practice of asana, meditation, and inquiry contributes to the whole. From one person changing, we are all changed.
Often at the end of teaching an asana class, I will acknowledge the group for creating time in their day to work on who they are. Pose by pose, breath by breath, how we will be with ourselves and others is formed. This effort can have a profound impact on the world. Any default pattern of hiding and protecting deep-seated fears, blaming others, and being less than we otherwise can be is addressed. We have the ability to see and melt away our self-limiting and isolating fears. In taking care of ourselves, we are able to take care of others.
Move From Me to We
It is natural to want to share with others when something good, something freeing, is discovered. In my experience, yoga practice isn’t complete without sharing it with others. By this, I mean conversations to express what I have found through my yoga practice, about myself, with other people in discussions with an intention to give them insights they might find valuable. Just like we are having right now.
Because this is such a natural expression, fear never comes into play. Instead, there is joy in discovering and giving it away. As a result, you become a changemaker. You are the kind of person who inspires others and opens up the access for them to take a risk and do what fulfills them in their life, according to what is important to them. This is different from giving advice and telling someone what they should do. Being a changemaker means inviting people to share your unique life experiences and allowing them theirs.
Allow Others to Make Their Own Decisions
It is easy to mistake the efforts of a changemaker and become oppressive, adding your own judgments, good or bad. Many years ago, we did a 6-week program at the yoga studio that included asana, meditation, inquiry, and nutrition. It is called 40 Days to a Personal Revolution, based on a book written by Baron Baptiste. The program’s cost was $250.00, and many members of the studio community signed up. I spoke to one of the teaching team who expressed he had a friend for whom the program might be just what was needed at this juncture in the friend’s life. The friend was going through a rough time.
Unfortunately, the teacher decided that the program cost too much for their friend and would not share it. He judged and decided, restricting the friend from the free will to choose his own pathway. The program might have been just what was needed, or not, we will never know. This intention to protect others and choose for them denies them the right to shape their own lives.
Small Can Be Powerful.
We each can overcome the greatest inner struggles to become changemakers and leaders. It doesn’t always have to be in grand gestures and remarkable settings. The simple act of allowing for another person to be unbroken in your view is in itself miraculous.
So often, many of us feel not accepted by others as we are. However, the way the world is when you are there is entirely in your control. Who you are for others and yourself colors the world. From this perspective, leave people in their own greatness, regardless of the seriousness of the situation. Existing from the mantra: “who I am/ you are is whole, perfect, complete, there is nothing to fix, nothing to do, nothing is broken” is a foundation for living a life of connection and freedom wherever you are.
The Power of Choice.
What has us not lifting each other up, not seeing other people hurt? Why is it we can only see our own struggles? What makes our experience better when we push others away? What has us do this to ourselves?
I think it’s because we don’t presume ourselves and others to be whole, perfect, complete, and entitled to choose our lives for ourselves. People spend too much time making choices for other people. Let me make the choices for myself about my own life. It only spreads hurt when you decide for others and don’t give them the space to choose for themselves.
The opportunity is for each person to not be broken and not be fixed. How freeing would a change of perspective be that allows each of us to be the creators of our own lives, coming from a presumption that precisely as we are right now is whole, perfect, and complete. Accepting ourselves and then building from what is actually happening is the freedom to exceed our greatest expectations and fulfill our grandest dreams.
Written by Lisa Taylor: Female Business Owner, World-Class Yoga Instructor, and Owner and Founder of Evolution Power Yoga