The Yoga of Acceptance

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Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

The beauty of a yoga practice is that it helps us learn acceptance. Initially, I found that my practice was helping me learn to accept my body as it was that day in that particular moment. Every time I would go to class, my teachers would remind me, remind us all, that a piece of doing a posture was simply about focusing on where our bodies were right then. Not where they were the day before. Not where we wanted them to be. Right then.

It was a hard lesson to accept. When I first began my practice three years ago, I was happy to just show up and do anything. I was excited about the possibilities for each posture. I looked forward to seeing what the next class would bring.

But the more time I spent in the studio the less accepting I became of my body and what it could do. I wanted my tight hamstrings and hips to open up so that I could go deeper in certain postures. I found myself frustrated with the time it was taking and the lack of progress I perceived myself to be making.

I had developed a goal-oriented practice.

My practice had moved away from self-acceptance and enjoyment and into one where I thought the only way to be happy was to obtain full expression of a posture. No, not every posture. I just had certain ones I loved and thought were beautiful that I wanted to achieve. The rest of them, well, they didn’t really concern me. If a posture wasn’t on my list of favorites, then it was something I simply had to do in order to get to one of those that was. I was just passing time.

Refocusing My Practice

As the quote from Lao Tzu says, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes,” and sure enough, I experienced one that helped me refocus my practice.

About six weeks ago, I was doing some back-bending at home. I shouldn’t have been doing it. It was cold outside, I was cold, and I was not properly warmed up. But my back felt tight from sitting all day, and I just wanted to stretch it out. The result? A pulled muscle in my lower back.

That pulled muscle impacted nearly every single posture. Anything I could have done in a posture previously became non-existent. Yes, I could go to class, but I had to move slowly and evaluate what was going on with my body. Most postures I could barely get into at all, and there were several I flat out couldn’t do for weeks because of the pain it caused in my back.

I didn’t want to give up my practice, and it was recommended to me that continuing, and doing anything I could, was better than doing nothing at all. Some movement is better than no movement.

The first week was the worst. I cried several times because of the pain and the physical limitations it put on me, but then, somehow, I managed to fall into acceptance. I started to find the joy in going to class and doing what I could without expectations. I became excited again about what the next day would bring. Some days I could do more, and others I could do less, but I learned not to get upset by this.

I started to appreciate each posture for its own beauty and what it brought me each day. Since I couldn’t do my favorite postures to the extent I was used to, I had stopped focusing on when they would show up in class. I was simply being.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by new Daily Cup of Yoga contributor, Leigh A. Hall. Leigh has been practicing Bikram Yoga for over three years. She blogs regularly about her practice at www.mybikramyogalife.com.  You can find her on Facebook,  Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for inspiring me I truly need it . Thank you!

  2. Acceptance is so important! You can’t move forward without first knowing where you are. Love it; thanks for sharing!

  3. One of the doors of Liberation is “aimlessness”. You capture the rich quality of this in your commentary. Thank you.

  4. Your post captures yoga’s essence. Thanks for sharing.

  5. “Some movement is better than no movement.” This one really stood out for me. Thank you.

  6. This is beautiful! I see acceptance as being part of satya – living according to your own truth. Love that you were able to do that. Thanks for posting!

  7. Some excellent points in this article. Its difficult for me to take off my competitive hat and work with my current level of flexibility. This acceptance, is key both in yoga and in life. Thanks for writing

  8. I find it hard to accept what I can and can’t do in most classes. In yoga I am perhaps the most accepting but it’s hard not to be goal oriented in our society about everything!

    • Yes, I agree, and we have gotten used to achieving maximum efficiency in everything haven’t we? It’s sadly such a robotic outlook on life! Going Zen is good for us sometimes where we can have a more balanced approach.

  9. Great post! To learn and accept – it is what it is – is one of the great teachings of yoga. Together with awareness – what feels your body like. And I’m always very careful with backbends, I only do advanced postures like the wheel when I’m really warmed up and feel my body is ready for it.

  10. “I found myself frustrated with the time it was taking and the lack of progress I perceived myself to be making” This happened to me as well. I was so close to quit, but then I reminded myself why I started. This was the moment of my acceptance. Now I just enjoy the process: just me. just my body. right now.
    Thank you so much for the post!

  11. I have learned as I turn 40 to be incrementally happy with each passing year and not to dwell on my natural decline in fitness.

  12. I think your journey is one shared by many. It’s probably rare to begin a yoga practice with the right intentions. I started because I really wanted that slim, trim yoga bod. But once we realize what yoga is REALLY all about, it’s an incredible journey that’s not really about fitness at all.

    Thanks for this!

  13. Your post captures yoga’s essence. Thanks for sharing.

  14. It’s similar to what Bruce Lee once said, “be like water” … choice wisdom for life!

  15. Thank you, this is very timely for me. Lately it has felt that my practice is going backwards. I struggle with asanas that I have not been struggling with before. After reading this I realise that I have been concentrating too much on getting to the next stage of each pose rather than ‘focusing’ on where I am in that moment, in that space. Refocusing!

  16. Thank you, this is very timely for me. Lately it has felt that my practice is going backwards. I struggle with asanas that I have not been struggling with before. After reading this I realise that I have been concentrating too much on getting to the next stage of each pose rather than ‘focusing’ on where I am in that moment, in that space. Refocusing!

  17. Thank you for this. Sometimes it’s just very hard to focus on enjoyment and self-acceptance when goal-oriented is practiced by almost everyone. I’ve been struggling to learn the hand stands for the past few weeks-and was totally envious when some of my friends got it before I did. This reminded me that yoga is not a competitive sport. Time to get back on track!

  18. Nice information, i will make use of it..

  19. Great article, it is nice to read your article..Thanks for sharing such an information with us..

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  22. Hello,
    Thanks for sharing your story. It is truly inspiring one and can inspire anyone to do yoga perfectly in which particular posture they want to be perfect.
    Thanks

  23. Thank you for your story. I really liked the idea that “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu”
    It really tells that you don’t need to resist or run away from problems, just accept that problems are part of life and move forward, let things flow!

  24. Such simple advice, yet so difficult to follow. Thanks for the friendly reminder that sometimes we need to step back and smell the roses.

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