The word “yoga” means “union”, which makes perfect sense: To practice yoga is to create unity among the mind, body, and spirit. When we practice yoga, we use physical postures and deep, purposeful breathing to bring us into a heightened awareness of our bodies and minds, and we work to become closer to our true selves—the selves that lie beneath all of the mental chatter that usually fills our days.
The thing is, my mental chatter is LOUD. Really loud. And making it quiet so that I can connect more authentically with my core self is easier said than done. A major component of practicing yoga is learning to focus on the body, the breath, and the present moment, but many of us are inevitably distracted by… well, everything, really. I love yoga, but even after many years of practice, I still find myself in classes beset by thoughts that are decidedly un-yoga-like: musings on how I look, how other people look, what I’m going to eat for dinner, that random thing that happened to me last week, that stray memory of how the soap smelled in my parents’ old guest bathroom. The frequency with which these haphazard epiphanies seem to be in direct proportion with how still and focused I’m supposed to be; the more intense the meditation, the more my mind wants to skitter in all directions, fastening onto whatever happens to be most irrelevant in that moment.
If you, like me, experience these bumps on the road to enlightenment, take heart—you’re not alone. And it’s important that we not beat ourselves up about these mental wanderings. To do so would violate the central yogic principle of “ahimsa,” or compassion—for others and for ourselves. The next time you find yourself thinking about the latest episode of Scandal while you’re hanging out in Downward Dog, show some compassion for yourself and your compulsively babbling brain; pull yourself back from the TV abyss, try to refocus, and move on. It’s all just part of the journey. That’s what I tell myself, at least.
Do these thoughts look familiar to you?