I’ve been practicing yoga for just over 8 years, and it would be a gross understatement to say that it has changed my life. On a physical level, yoga has strengthened and toned my body, as well as allowing me to exceed what I thought were the limits of my endurance. I have shed excess weight, and have come to the realization that I am a shallow breather, which is to say that in my day-to-day life, my instinctual breathing pattern is to take small, shallow inhalations and then exhale partially, without fully emptying my lungs of air. I have been shown how a strong abdomen will support and heal a dodgy lower back, and that simply twisting the body while inhaling and exhaling fully empties the body’s organs of the blood they contain, while replacing it with fresh, oxygenated blood.
On a spiritual level, my yoga practice has taught me (and continues to teach me) how working my way through an asana provides me with the necessary tools to work my way through the myriad of obstacles that dot my daily travels. As absurd as it may sound, simply flowing through a practice makes me physically and emotionally stronger and more alert, while bringing my focus back to life’s most basic lessons about the meaning of life and the importance of the energies we surround ourselves with.
At one of the classes that I attend, I remember my teacher speaking to my peers and I about how the lure of yoga has uncovered an odd pattern in newcomers to the practice, especially those coming from highly stressful environments: people have an increasingly (and alarmingly) hard time sitting (or standing, for that matter) still. Our North American work ethic has immersed us in a high speed, ever-elusive pursuit for success, one that inexorably leaves us vibrating with the reverberating echoes of the day’s battles. As yoga has begun to be marketed as a sensible salve to our harrowing daily goings-on, people from business backgrounds have found themselves in the unfamiliar environs of a yoga class. The constraining suits replaced by comfortable threads, the faxes and Blackberries replaced by spongy mats and supporting blocks, these people have found themselves destabilized by the lack of white noise, or more importantly, by the presence of undiluted silence. The process of stripping away society’s conditioning has often proved to be too great a feat for some, resulting in the identification of yoga as “too freaky”, “too quiet”, or most laughably, “too easy”. There now exists a movement of millions attempting to relate to life’s most basic principles, and in that same effort to relate comes the realization that we rarely end up where we originally envisioned ourselves…and so the quest begins…to come back to ourselves…and to our selves.
I have always felt the exact opposite of the situation our teacher was presenting to us. I have always been more concerned with what I knew I needed in order to achieve stability and happiness: love, and a secure residence where I knew I was safe and sheltered…a place where I could be myself, from where I could bring my energy and essence to others, either in the workplace or simply in social circles. It is precisely due to this innate nature that I found myself immediately comfortable with yoga, as if I had once again come across something that had been lost and forgotten long ago. My challenge didn’t lie in having to allow myself the luxury of letting go of society’s rules and constraints in order to be comfortable in silence, but rather in having to concentrate my awareness and expansive range of vision to comply with the structure and confines required by those represented by the majority. As a result, I always felt like somewhat of an outsider, fairly convinced that I was on the right path, but too easily distracted by the possibility of other avenues that might expose me to be a self-justifying fraud unwilling to comply with the unspoken rules of the masses.
Now that I’m a tad older, and monumentally wiser, I understand just how exceptional my thinking was (and still is) given the world we live in. Yoga is the house I choose to worship in, the compass I find my way through life with. I am now comfortable in the certainty that life will bring us where we need to be, regardless of how we may try to manipulate and shape it…that if we allow ourselves to be carried as opposed to standing in our own way, we will find ourselves where we were meant to be, albeit perhaps not where we thought we’d end up…and instead of obeying the laws of society, finding ourselves obeying the laws of the universe.
— By Bram Levinson
Biography: Bram Levinson has been an avid yoga practitioner since 1999, and is a writer and a photographer who also manages Centre Luna Yoga in Montreal, Quebec. He is currently training with Darby, Joanne & Shankara at Sattva Yoga Shala in Montreal for his Ashtanga Yoga Teacher’s certification.