I recently got into a discussion with my teacher about my frustration with some of traditional yogic texts. My complaint: the texts make yoga sound like magic.
Now, Harry Potter aside, I don’t believe in magic. Hard work? Yes. Intentionality—of course! But magic? Not so much. I know you can’t really pull rabbits out of hats (unless they are in there already) and trickery makes me wary. In fact, I tend to be rational and realistic at cost to me. And yet, what is magic really?
Magic And Belief
I sat with this question for a while recently, determined to get past my initial skepticism. What I soon realized is this: when we talk about magic we talk about belief. In order to grow, we must believe in ‘impossible’ things. That sounds like much of challenge (and thrill!) of the yoga practice.
Simply, magic is not spells and manipulation. Magic is the ability to see and believe that our choices have an impact bigger than ourselves. Magic reminds us that we can truly make a difference. Or, to quote my friend Harry Potter, "Working hard is important. But there is something that matters even more—believing in yourself."
When I think about how yoga has affected my relationship to myself, it truly feels like magic. Think about these ways yoga transforms you:
1) Yoga teaches us to find something out of seemingly nothing.
When we first sit down to practice or meditate, it often looks like nothing is going on. In fact, to many people these moments might look boring or simple! But, if you have been practicing a while, you know that the stillness in practice is often the most stunning. It is in stillness that we come to connect with how truly alive we are.
As we sensitize to our own internal cadences, we come to deeply appreciate our energies and our ability to effect change from within. In time, we learn that we can transform our day without radical change. Rather, we transform by sourcing ourselves.
2) Yoga empowers us to grow beyond our self-imposed limitations.
Remember how, when you started practice, you would say “I’d never be able to touch my toes.” And then you did.
We do this all the time. We impose arbitrary limits that the practice breaks apart. If it’s not the toes, it’s the handstand, and if it’s not the handstand, it’s the ability to focus the mind. Whatever your ‘never’ is, yoga has the profound gift of proving you wrong! Yoga reveals to us that we are bigger than our mental limitations.
3) Yoga reveals our interconnectedness
One of my favorite asana teachers says: “Yoga helps you deal with your shit.” And, let me say from experience, she is right! Do you ever notice how after a yoga class you seem to love your sweetie more? Or, you feel more open to hearing your boss out at work? That’s because you do!
Practice has a wonderful way of settling our mind (specifically the chitta vrittis) so that we are better able to be present and receptive to those around us. We begin to notice how when we receive those around us, we naturally come into harmony with our daily living. We no longer feel like we are fighting upstream. Instead, we feel like we can bask in the light of our day.