Yoga helps reduce suffering ... and one of the ways it does this is by changing our perspective of the suffering, which includes recognizing that our greatest pain in life often becomes our greatest wisdom, motivator and pathway to loving others.
When I was 13, my father caught me off guard with his video camera in hand and a pretend microphone. I still cringe a bit as I remember watching it later. He asked me "So, Julie, tell me how are you enjoying basketball?" He followed this question with 4 or 5 more questions about my life.
My answer, again and again, was "I don't know."
I had lost my sense of my Self. I was so externally focused on getting approval and succeeding in the eyes of others that I didn't even know what my own thoughts and feelings were. My mantra might have been "What do you want me to say?"
We know from research that this happens to a lot of girls, typically between the ages of 11 and 13. They begin to raise their hands less in class. A playful confidence and joyous outburst of thought turns into a self-conscious fear of saying the wrong thing, and not being liked. Any inner knowing gets stifled as attention moves outward to how we look and how others perceive us.
Enter Yoga. Though not a quick fix, yoga is founded upon the idea of 'Realized Knowledge' or 'Inner Knowing'. Rather than teaching, we are often asking questions of our students. How does this feel? Notice your body. How is your breathing today? What does it feel like to imagine you are in nature? What brings you great joy? What helps you feel strong? What brings you stress?
Had my first experience of Yoga happened at a younger age, perhaps I would have been connected to my sense of 'self' during those difficult years. But my own first experience of Yoga came when I was in college, and I will never forget the very first time I did a guided relaxation where we were invited to scan our body from our toes all the way to the top of our head. We were then instructed to walk around campus in a more mindful way. I had never before experienced my internal landscape in this way and I still remember how if felt different...stronger and peaceful...to walk around in my new sense of Self.
May we all take a deep breath, notice what is true for us, and trust that our unique understanding and expression of life is what is most beautiful.