I am going to Nicaragua this week on a Karma Yoga Retreat that I am leading with a colleague. This process has been an extraordinary journey that has already taught me a great deal.
My friend, Elizabeth, and I started talking about doing this retreat almost one year ago when we were at a yoga life coaching training. When my friend first mentioned it, I thought “yeah…that sounds like a great idea.” But I didn’t do anything to make it happen. Then, coincidentally or not so coincidentally, when we were at another retreat together in November, we decided that we were going to lead a karma yoga trip to Nicaragua. We chose Nicaragua because Elizabeth has lived within the community and our nonprofit organization (Shakti Youth Project- www.shaktiyouthproject.org) is related to aiding youth in Central America.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday- Elizabeth and I were standing in my room in Mexico on the Mayan Riviera coast and we looked into each other’s eyes and said that we commit to making this retreat happen. It was really that simple. I know it sounds dramatic but it was just such a powerful moment. From then on, everything fell into place. We started to move into action, creating fliers, advertising, setting up the retreat, etc… The only thing that changed from when we said we were going to do this retreat in June to when we said it again in November was our Commitment to each other and to this project.
Yoga, more than anything else, has taught me so much about commitment. It has opened my eyes to commitment to myself. I always thought of commitment in terms of my commitment to other people. Yoga has shown me what is possible when I commit to myself. A lot of times we give up on our commitments to ourselves because of fear and negative thinking. The more we practice commitment to ourselves on the mat, the more we drop the fear and move into action.
Commitment for me comes up in yoga when I commit to holding a yoga pose. You know when you are in the pose for awhile and your mind starts saying “get me out of this?” Commitment is saying that you are going to breath through it and not listen to the self-limiting thoughts. Your commitment to stay shows you that you are more than your thoughts. When we give up on our commitments, we give up on ourselves because we don’t believe that we can or that we are good enough.
The other lesson I learned about commitment happened when I was injured. Committing to my practice when I didn’t even recognize it as a practice was very powerful. Last year I had a bulging disk in my cervical spine and had numbness radiating down my arm and into my fingers. This injury lasted a couple of months. When I showed up on the mat, I had no idea what kind of practice I was going to have. I used to be able to do crow to tripod headstand and when I was injured I couldn’t even do a downward facing dog! Injured and in pain, I showed up on my mat everyday and practiced in whatever way I could. I committed to not giving up on myself or on my body. I have to tell you that I learned so much about acceptance and surrender during that time. I had to accept my body and surrender to the practice as it was that day. If I had not stayed committed to my yoga practice, I do not know if I would have learned those amazing life lessons.
So I have 2 invitations for you:
(1) The next time you are in a yoga pose and you want to get out of the pose, make the commitment to yourself to stay (even if it is for one more breath), and
(2) Show up on your mat when you are not in the mood to practice or when you feel too tired or sick
Making commitments to yourself on the mat is a great practice because like everything else…what shows up on the mat, shows up in your life! Why not practice commitment and see what is possible in your life!