Indoctrinated with success and perfectionism, the concept of a “calling” can be incredibly daunting. Often we are so overwhelmed by the immediate that it is hard to think deeper, less cerebral and more soulful. Let’s just get this out here: sometimes our personal passions cannot fulfill our basic needs for money and stability. And sometimes they aren’t connected to a vocation at all – sometimes we are called to serve, to listen, to love as fully as possible. Whatever it is, yoga cracks us open and helps us interpret what is going on underneath, pointing us closer toward our callings.
5 Ways that Yoga Helped Me Find My Calling
1. I opened my heart.
Yoga creates a strong physical sensation that corresponds to a mental release. After a long day, sometimes I feel like my insides have become stiff and icy. It’s hard to have a deeply compassionate conversation, to determine where I should be spending my energy, to embrace my passions rather than my problems. And then I get on the mat, and I stretch my spine in every which-way, and something happens. It’s like taking an ice pick to my heart. It is only in this type of open, receptive environment that we can even begin to find our calling.
Put into Practice: Camel Pose. Take five deep breaths here, even if you become uncomfortable, and feel the heart cracking open.
2. I started showing up.
I want to be loud and clear about this one, because it’s perhaps one of the most important steps in pursuing our passions. When we show up on the mat, we commit to being uncomfortable. Sometimes that requires modifications on the thirteenth Chaturanga, and sometimes that means we do not drop our knees in Plank just because our arms are shaky. This is a fine line to balance – when to work hard and when to back off – and, ultimately, it requires intense introspection. The more we get on the mat, the more we notice our personal patterns. In order to show up fully, we must bring greater awareness into the intentions behind our actions.
Put into Practice: Warrior III. Stay for five breaths and take a gut check: what do you do when your balance gets shaky?
3. I identified the root of my problems.
We all have places in the body that grow stiff and sore, and the subsequent accommodations that we make for ourselves to avoid being uncomfortable. I tend to protrude my ribcage in standing postures and it strains my hip flexors, which means that sometimes I cannot drop into full splits. As a seasoned yogi, this will initially anger me, frustrate me. I will push and strain to find the posture. But then, grudgingly, I remember the intention of this practice. We must work on the root of the problem (the ribs) rather than the manifestation of the problem (the splits). When we are unfulfilled, it becomes easy to blame surface issues for a deeper problem. Yoga heightens our awareness, revealing where we need to make personal modifications to realign ourselves.
Put into Practice: Downward Dog. Notice where the body feels tight and constricted, and play with small modifications to alleviate tension. Avoid forcing the posture.
4. I became less competitive.
Confession: I still cannot do a handstand. This makes me very self-conscious so I pull my mat toward a wall and pretend to look more intense than I am. Because I am a teacher, and because I am stubborn, I feel competitive with every yogi that walks into the room. I was recently doing this when a teacher told me that an older woman could hold her handstand longer than me. I was offended, so I gritted my teeth and strained my back to stay longer. Instead, the other woman stood up, walked over to me, and held my feet. She told our teacher that she was not in class to compete with me. She was there for herself, and I just happened to be beside her. I found this profound. In one moment, she clarified the entirety of this practice: we are striving alongside each other to be strong and open. We practice together because of the energy that travels from person to person, when a room of people decide to show up, to be present, and to hold each other’s feet. In order to move forward we must keep our eyes on our own mat. (And support each other when needed!)
Put into Practice: Child’s Pose. Hold until you detach from your surroundings. Eyes on your own mat.
5. I finally listened to myself.
The stillness created by yoga gives us a place to rediscover ourselves. Like sand settling at the bottom of the ocean, we are able to sift through all of the clutter and finally get a clear image of who we are and what we believe – and, in turn, what we are meant to do. If you do not have a meditation practice, this is my subtle urge for you to begin. It only takes a few deep breaths with your eyes closed and an honest, authentic commitment to dive deeper into yourself.
Put into Practice: Seated Mediation. No restrictions here. Mediation is always about you – what you need and how much you can give. Observe your thoughts as they pass. Try not to control the results.
In a world of quick fixes and all-stakes success, we need people who follow their hearts. For me, this only happened when I deepened my practice and redefined my passions. Instead of a specific activity or vocation, it became my belief system, the compass that orients me closer toward my calling.
Image credit: Alyona Lezhava