A student asked me last week “please give me a pep talk”. Don’t we all feel this way sometimes! I asked: why do you need a pep talk? She said, “I have been working so hard, I am practicing for some time, and I still do not feel improvement!!” Her words resonated with me a day later, when I came upon a quote that I had penciled in my notebook back in 2005 when I attended the National Iyengar Conference in Estes Park. The words of the well-known yogi, BKS Iyengar seemingly jumped off the page, “Live with disappointment one day it will turn into an appointment.”
Sometimes we all have negative thoughts of question and doubt, “why am I doing this yoga practice? It helped so much and now it does not anymore.” These negative impulses regarding our practice are here to stay. We hit them time and time again, when we are sick, injured, or feeling down.
Part of a yoga practice is to know that some of these feelings will always be there and that we need to move through them. A skillful response to these impulses is not to let go of the practice; on the contrary it is to continue practice. It is when we are in physical or emotional pain, when things do not go our way that our practice helps; actually it is for these moments that we have practiced.
I certainly felt this way last spring when I was suddenly in an accident that left me with a broken pelvis and foot, unable to even stand for quite some time, let alone practice yoga asana. But in fact, I did practice, I adapted to the circumstances, to the new me, the broken me. I used my breath to still my mind. Everyday I stretched what I could, lifting my arms over my head in bed, lying over a bolster to keep my chest open. My main practice was stilling my mind with my breath. I was ready to turn this devastating disappointment into an appointment to reacquaint myself with my breath, my body and my awareness.
Faced with utter disappointment at how my body was changed in an instant, I found that the discipline of yoga helps us to learn to redirect the mind, so that these negative thoughts do not win the day. We have many tools given to us by ancient teachings of yoga from Patañjali, but the first is to stay consistent and perseverant with our practice. An understanding can come to us that these thoughts are but our mind rebelling as we try to redirect it.
So yes, remaining constant and sticking to one’s practice may actually help in maintaining our positive outlook and perspective on life. We all know how positive we sometimes feel when everything is going well and we are feeling our most strong and healthy. So it was ever more important in my recovery to keep my chest and my heart open as I was slogging through the daily grind of physical and emotional recovery. In fact, I looked at these daily sessions as an opportunity to have an “appointment” with my own best self.
Tomorrow is another day, so yes enjoy this appointment and be ready if you find that it arrives today! Have faith that when we lose the thread and feel less directed at times, that it is with friendliness (Maitri) and compassion (Karuna) that we bring our scattered mind back to the task. You may just find, as did I, that time after time with practice and perhaps a pep talk or two, we can all change our outlook on life.