There’s said to be power in word. Language shapes and defines our ideas and contemplations. It bridges our inner landscape and the outer world in which we reveal ourselves. It both describes what has happened and provides a framework for future expectations and possibilities. And language provides an anchor, a focus for our energy and intentions.
Some time ago I began a tradition of using language to frame my teaching. The theme that year- “unfold your practice”-was the perfect anchor for the incredible changes which had happened within my personal world. The loss of my step dad, radical changes in my yoga world, and the opportunity to move forward with a long-held dream of creating a family oriented yoga studio- these big changes invited great personal learning about the power of yoga, meditation and mindful living.
One of the mostpowerful themes to ever serve both as a framework for my teachings and as an offering to students of The Yoga Loft was that of sustainability. So I offer those contemplations again as a way to revisit this idea. Although written some time ago, these ideas are still highly relevant.
Sustainability as a Practice
Owning a yoga studio is an absolute privilege. Every day, as I walk up the stairs to the loft, I feel incredibly grateful. To hold and manifest a vision of a space where community, yoga, mindfulness and family come together is no easy task. It’s hard work, and at the same time requires I be gentle with myself.
One of the greatest personal challenges I face in overseeing The Yoga Loft is energy. In my many years of creating and overseeing projects, organizations, events and personal goals, I have never had a shortage of ideas. What I have found myself short on is energy- the ability to sustain what I create, and the ability to manage the conflicting priorities within my life. Historically I have succeeded at reaching my goal- almost always at the expense of my health. So the Yoga Loft is my ultimate challenge- creating and sustaining something I deeply believe in, and at the same time nourishing and caring for myself so that the fun, connection and freedom that I seek and cherish in life is accessible to me, every day.
Sustainability. For me, this is the challenge. This is the line that I dance on as I carefully consider each opportunity, each possibility of how I unfold my day, the life of the studio, my practice, my relationships, my passions.
3. (Economics) (of economic growth) non-inflationary
Sustainable- a word most often referring to issues of the environment, economics, and social challenges. Society’s definition of this powerful idea tends to focus on the greaterworld rather than the individual. But it has great meaning in the context of how we unfold our own lives.
When I teach I often refer to western culture- our ideals of accomplishment, and the belief that more is better and pushing and working harder hold more value than being soft and sensitive. I talk about this in the context of how far we should stretch in a pose, and in the value of choosing a gentle practice when we are exhausted rather than further depleting ourselves in a class that overtaxes us. Western ideals frame our uncomfortableness with “being”, and are reflected in our striving and doing approach to work, play, family and even rest.
I know this cycle well. For 5 years I raced in triathlons. The challenge: under perfect conditions, how fast can I go and how high can I place? I became very good at pushing myself beyond reasonable boundaries. Ultimately what I created was not sustainable… Ironman Canada 2005 was my last race and 10 years later I am just now able to entertain the possibility of again running, riding and swimming.
My biggest lesson in all those years of racing? The challenge is not in being able to push yourself to or beyond your limits. The challenge is in keeping your ego in check and holding back, observing limits, and not going full out. When you are really driven, pushing yourself is the easy part. Finding a sustainable pace- that’s the challenge.
So what does sustainability look like on and off the mat? It means showing up in a way that is replicable over a long period of time, in a way that does not deplete and cause damage. It means that we unfold both our creations and our own life in a way that is vibrant, radically honest, and visionary. For me, a sustainable yoga practice is one that evolves with me over time- so every day there is a way I can get on the mat, and there is a practice that meets my needs for challenge or rest, expansion or sustenance, evolution or maintenance. At home, at the airport, when I’m healthy and when I have a cold- there is a way I can do yoga.
Sustainability off the mat is also a reflection of this ideal. Off the mat this means that wherever I put my energy, whatever I choose to create grows and evolves mindfully, without the risk of collapse and depletion. My responsibility is to only create that which I can sustain without depleting me as an individual. Unltimately, it’s my level of self awareness that is my guide as I dance with sustainability on and off the mat.
In the yoga that I study, one of the great lessons as a student is the learning that there is always more- more to study, more to learn, more to practice. That what we know now is exactly what we need to know, and that the learning to come will unveil another layer and then another. Rather than being a daunting ideal, this teaching is instead an invitation to sustainability as it gives us permission to be rather than do. It’s a reminder that right here and right now, I am enough, I do enough, I have enough.
So, my invitation to you : to view your life through the lens of both growth and capacity. To evolve and learn and grow, in the context of sustainability. To make careful choices each day about what has meaning, and to allocate your energy in such a way that you honour those aspects of your life on and off your mat which feed rather than deplete you.
And ultimately, to remember that personal insight and awareness are where it all starts.