The Best Intentions

The Best Intentions

I’ve never described myself as an athlete. For years my joke was “my sport in high school was marching band.” So it’s surprising that now much of my free time is spent in some kind of physical activity. The last eight years have been experiments in MMA, weightlifting, running, CrossFit, and yoga. In each there exists a myriad of benchmark accomplishments: run further, lift more weight, go until you fall on the floor, push yourself, achieve achieve achieve. I think I became addicted to achievements after going to school for so long and yearned for external validation.

There are some positives to this attitude; after all, how would we motivate ourselves to grow and change without goals? In yoga, it became an exercise in comparison. Always notice the poses of others and feeling jealous of their abilities. I made a checklist: down-dog with heels to the floor, forward fold touching the floor, crow pose for 15 seconds, headstand, headstand, and on and on and on. The voice in my head told me that my practice wasn’t good enough, to keep persisting until I could show up and show off.

Then during my pregnancy with my son, my body fell apart. I could barely walk a mile without experiencing pain, and most other physical activities were no longer an option for me. I was lucky to be in the middle of my yoga teacher training during this time, and had wonderful teachers encouraging me over and over again to listen to my inner wisdom: what would serve me best? After resisting over and over again I finally had an experience on my mat where I approached it without expectation. I moved slowly, gently, and expressed gratitude for my body instead of frustration. Through this my yoga practice shifted from achievement based to gratitude based. I go to my mat more often, allowing this space of no expectations to fill me with peace and stillness.

I’ve begun to wonder: what would life be like if I approached every moment in the way I now approach my yoga practice. No expectations, just gratitude and acceptance? This has led me to a new practice: each day there are countless moments I feel frustration, anxiety, and upset. When these moments occur, my intention is to pause and ask: what in this can I find gratitude for? Many days my inner voice answers back with sarcasm, but more and more I’m able to find something, however small, to meet with acceptance and gratitude. I’m working on it.

In love and kindness,

Alyssa

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