by Barrie Risman
“Yoga is a path that takes all of us with it. No part gets left behind.”
My first yoga teacher told me this in 1993. It brought tears to my eyes with its promise of true wholeness. I still remember it landing in my awareness. In that moment, I understood yoga as an invitation to a path of life-long learning and growth that would touch every aspect of my inner and outer life.
Simply put, the promise of yoga is this: If we embrace its practices and teachings, yoga has the power to enlighten and transform us on every level. The clarity and awareness gained through yoga cultivates a healthy detachment from our inner world of thoughts, emotions, and mental habits, allowing us to shift into more expanded ways of being. It also empowers us to make conscious choices that can positively transform our outer experience of relationships, family, work and play.
Indeed, yoga will transform us if we give ourselves fully to it. This is a big if. Do we dare to bring all parts of ourselves to the practices, and allow them to shift and change us? Or do we bring some things with us and leave other parts of ourselves outside of yoga? Do we have the courage, and more importantly the longing, to shine the light of awareness on all parts of our lives? Are there places where we would rather stay comfortably unconscious?
I have remembered this teaching many times – in times of breakthrough and expansion, and also in times of struggle. Mostly, I have remembered it in times of struggle. It has allowed me to rededicate myself to the practices and wisdom of yoga even when I felt that I was very, very far away from living them. It has allowed me to offer the full spectrum of my experience into yoga’s purifying fire and emerge renewed, expanded and empowered.
Over and over, I learn that there is nothing outside the circle of my practices, no part of myself outside of yoga’s embrace. I pass it along to you, now, so that it may remind you of the possibility of your practices. Yoga begins exactly where we are, but does not leave us in the same place it finds us.