Yogi Assignment: Commitment

This has been a difficult year with intense highs and intense lows. Things have happened that I never imagined possible and some of it nearly broke me, but through Grace alone I kept on going. Both my father and my father-in-law crossed over—may they rest in peace, they are missed and loved dearly. Despite my father’s long bout with illness it was still absolutely heartbreaking to lose him. My heart was ripped open and tears come so much easier now. Grief has already taught me a lot about what is the most meaningful part of life. While it may be an over used platitude, grief has taught me that life is in fact really all about love. Without love, life is flat and somewhat meaningless. But with love even an ordinary experience can be extraordinary.

This year has also given me some amazing accomplishments. My new book, the Yogi Assignment, debuted as the #1 new release in yoga and OmStars, my online channel for yoga, is finally off the ground. OmStars has been the shining light of the year for me, a real dream come true. Yet it wasn’t all easy. After a monumental kickstarter campaign, my business partner and best friend left the dream we founded together and I wasn’t sure if I could pick up the pieces and carry on all alone. But then I realized that it was always my dream to start with and I recommitted myself to working diligently to make it come true. Many of you know that I’ve been pitching the idea of a yoga TV show to production companies and major networks for years. While I never thought I could do it on my own, I’m learning to be stronger and have so much more faith in myself day by day. I’d like to say thanks to you for believing in me and special thanks to the awesome team of hard working and talented people that makes OmStars such a success. I could not do it without you. With you by my side I see that I’m never alone because you are my community. While we still have loads of work to do and miles yet to go to reach the highest peaks (and make all the updates to the website that we want), the dream has been reborn, renewed and restored.

Here we are on January 1st. The time of year marks the traditional turning of the page on the last 365 days and gives you the chance to write the story of your life fresh and new. Change doesn’t happen with the wave of a wand. At midnight you’re not going to click your heels and find yourself in wonderland (unless you’re at a really good party lol). Yet, regardless of how awesome the New Year’s part was, the reality of substantive life change is that you have to put in the work in the daily grind. Yoga has the potential to transform every aspect of your being, but its magic is really just your magic. The practice is nothing but a series of poses, breathing techniques, mental focus points and moral guidelines without the essence of your spirit poured into it. You bring the practice to life by getting on your mat and giving your heart and soul to it. You don’t need to practice for hours a day (but you can if you want). You don’t need to go on a meditation marathon (but you could if you wanted to). All you need is a few short minutes a day—I like to say as little as five minutes a day—to put one humble step forward on the path of your life.

This week’s Yogi Assignment is Commitment. Whether you’re an established practitioner or someone just interested in yoga I want you to commit to getting on your mat for five minutes every single day. It could be for meditation or yoga or introspective self-study, but those five minutes are your stake in the stands of your life. It may seem small and insignificant, but it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. There’s no need to wait until you lose the weight or get the right job or have the perfect relationship—the perfect body for the practice is the one you have. There is no judgment in yoga, there is only the practice. It can be hard sometimes to think that you, yes you, with all your imperfections may be able to join the world of yoga and change your life. It may seem like yoga is a club of perfect people wearing all the right clothes. Sometimes yoga students and yoga teachers perpetuate the notion of a closed group by using jargon and intimidation to build a fortress around themselves. But I’m here today to tell you that yoga is universal. It doesn’t matter at all what you wear or what you look like. All that matters is that you practice—plain and simple.

Historically yoga was not practiced or mastered by the young and trendy. The sadhus, yogis and rishis of ancient India were often the most outcast and alienated from the top echelons of society and attained the highest realization at a very ripe old age. They lived in caves, jungle or remote mountains. Their knowledge was earned by a lifetime of concentrated practice aimed at direct perception of the deepest truth. The poses, the aspect of yoga that we are often so obsessed with, was just a small portion of the total yoga path. The name “sadhu” comes from the Sanskrit word “sadhana” which means a daily devotional spiritual practice. All sadhus are yogis, but not all yogis are sadhus because sadhus are renunciants who follow the path of an ascetic, most often including vows of celibacy. The rishis were the great seers of the rich spiritual tradition of India, sadhus who attained the highest form of Divine knowledge. The yogi is yet still a sadhaka, a spiritual practitioner, whose daily commitment to the disciplined practice of yoga stems from a sincere desire to attain liberation from suffering. While not taking the full vows of a sadhu, to be a yogi is to find that space in your heart where you commit yourself to live a life of inner peace.

While we are not living in ancient India, stories of the rich spiritual tradition from which the practice of yoga originates can inspire us to commit ourselves anew to the hard work of the practice. It is often lonely to unroll your mat and turn your mind inward. If you are a home practitioner who doesn’t share much on social media, there are often little applause for your biggest accomplishments. If you have the grace to practice with a dedicated teacher, so much of the sacred space that you share is ineffable. Sometimes you can lose your faith and inspiration. That’s why today I’m asking you to recommit yourself to the practice with just five minutes a day. The journey of a thousand steps begins when you take the first step and it continues through ups and downs each time you take just one more step forward. If you feel overwhelmed by how far you have left to go focus on the one step that is front of you today. If you feel you cannot take that step, dig down into your heart and see if you can do it anyway. You may find that vast stores of faith and strength waking up within you as you simply begin to move forward along the yoga path.

The real commitment in yoga is to yourself. You have to learn to believe in yourself and your own sense of worthiness. As long as you judge yourself by outside standards you’ll always fail. But as soon as you reframe your sense of self-worth in the eyes of spirit you’ll see that your true worth is inherent and inviolable—and it lives in the spirit. The material world is ever-changing and impermanent and our bodies live in the material world. But the truth of the spirit is eternal, changeless and permanent. As you commit to taking the practice just into your life with as little as five minutes a day you will feel the essential nature of your spirit infusing every moment of your life—the light will start to shine through in all places the places where you feel the most broken. When the true light rises within you, you’ll feel renewed, restored and reborn. Commit yourself to the practice not to get your perfect handstand (but let yourself have fun with that!), nor to gain access to some clique (but real community can be healing), nor to try and “fix” yourself. Instead commit yourself to the practice because you are worth it!

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