“When you boil it all down, what would you say is the most important aspect of the yoga practice?” Peter asked me on my last day teaching at Yoga Mandala studio. Seventeen years ago I taught my first yoga class here.
Many right answers came mind. To pick one is like trying to pick the best peach on the tree or the best sunset.
The most important aspect of the yoga practice? With its thousands of years seeped in sacred tradition; honored, fused, morphed, reconfigured, convoluted, lyricized, heated, distilled, stylized, maligned, cherished? With its multidimensional components of devotion, discipline, breathwork (pranayama), poses (asana), meditation, strength, flexibility, stamina, attitude, alignment, commitment, mantras, sutras, chakras. How to pick the most?
I went with the brightest thread woven through it all:
a.k.a., Mindfulness. Attentiveness. Self-awareness. Observance.
Your awareness helps you know better. Understand more clearly. Show up wholeheartedly. Abide calmly.
Awareness tells whether what you say, how you behave, and how you feel all agree with each other.
Why does awareness matter?
Because when you’re aware you realize there’s more out there then you can know with your limited five senses and your intelligence.
More to the meaning, the design, the plan, your story, your path.
When you realize there’s more, you keep your eyes open. Open to serendipity, coincidence, chance, magic, potholes, butterflies, miracles. Open to the cues and clues that come to you daily but are easily missed because you’re a busy person.
Clues show up because they can, and they are there for a reason. They are there to teach and guide you.
You get to choose whether to pay attention.
When your awareness helps you see a broader scope, a bigger story, you start to see cause and effect, consequences, repercussions, ramifications. You’re more informed. You start to see how the pieces fit and when they don’t. You see incongruity, dissonance, and disparity but you plow ahead anyway. You start to recognize the imprint you make on other people, the planet, your future. You see how everything is interconnected. You get smarter, gentler, kinder to yourself and others. You listen more. You hear better.
Once you realize there’s more out there, you start to make wiser choices based on better understanding. You get a hit of something bigger – your connection to a greater source of wisdom, joy, goodness and grace.
Knowing there’s more helps you trust yourself and the natural unfolding of your life’s path. You stop feeling like you lack something or you’re not enough. You stop feeling separate and alone. You gain a greater sense of self-worth, belonging, and agency.
The big prize: you start trusting your intuition.
That still small voice inside you recognizes good and bad, right and wrong. It tells you to stop, go, slow down, or pause. You can’t hear it unless you tune in. You won’t tune in until you sense there’s more out there.
Now it’s like you’re carrying around a Magic 8 ball. You can refer to it always. The response Answer Unclear shows up less.
What happens next?
And then what?
The nutshell cracks open.
Inside is precious you.
Go ahead. Give yourself a break.