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When I first embarked on my yoga/spiritual exploration years ago, I had an agenda. I had specific, measurable goals and a timeline of one year (<- type-A anyone?). What I didn’t realize, was that although this was a great way to approach a marketing strategy, it’s a very bad way to approach personal growth.
So I struggled. I struggled to find competence in my physical practice, equanimity in my state-of-mind and compassion in my life on and off the mat. Especially during my time in India, where I was expecting to “crush” my spiritual adventure and arrive home with startling clarity about who I was, and what my purpose was to become.
Spoiler Alter: It didn’t work.
Yoga School #Fail
In fact, the opposite happened as I came back with nothing more than a collapsed body that kept me in bed for 2 weeks, and a foggy view of my immediate and long-term future. I had left my job, my life and my little poolside apartment in California, and all I had to show for it was a hand-written recipe for Tibetan Momos.
I had tried to force it all to happen and as a result, nothing worked.
Shortly after my return from India, I was scheduled to attend a yoga conference at Eslan that I had signed up for before I left. At this point, I was fed up with yoga, my back hurt and I had seen the false realities of infamous Eastern gurus who were nothing more than imperfect humans. But the conference was already paid for and I figured a Western perspective of spirituality might be just what I needed, so I went.
My experience is best described as an ironic calamity of events. Eslan, the “woo-woo land of the west” (and the place where Don Draper found enlightenment) was more than I could take. The naked bodies of old chubby men down by the hot springs and the presence of ego and judgment in so-called Western gurus left me sad (and a little grossed out).
I abandoned my mat for a long time after that event. For the next few years, my practice was spotty at best, half-hearted at most.
Then, while in Toronto over Christmas years later, I injured my back really badly which forced me to stop running. A little panic set in as running was my long time “weight-management” sport. So, I returned to the mat to the exclusion of all other activities because it was the only thing I could do at the time, and my back needed the healing benefits of a gentle practice.
How I Dropped 10lbs of mental and physical weight.
For the rest of that year, I did nothing but yoga and ironically, I lost a 10lbs. I attribute this loss to getting my appetite under control when I dialed back the excessive cardio. I also probably reduced my stress levels and a LOT of inflammation that was built up from all the miles of impact. Beyond that, I noticed that all those benefits that I wanted to happen on my watch years ago were starting to materialize.
I became a much more proficient practitioner, my body completely transformed from puffy and bloated to lean and strong, and finally, ever so subtly, my mind started to clear. The benefits of my practice in the past few years are amazing to me, but what suddenly occurred to me recently as I rocked out a particularly challenging class, was that the shift only happened when I made enough space for it to happen. Space that had previously been taken up with expectation.
Making Space for Magic to Happen
I don’t know why my life changed for the better when I started practicing yoga regularly again. It might have something to do with having more awareness of my critical inner voice and being present enough to challenge painful limiting beliefs. Or maybe it’s something more mystical than that. My psychology training leans toward the first idea, but either way, the result is more peace, and more space for magic to happen.
That brings me to an experience I had recently with a life coach. I hired her on a whim after learning of a series of people around me who died or had a life-threatening illness. It was a stark reminder that life is short and should be treated with care and attention. So I asked this coach to help me get in touch with my inner-voice who desperately wanted to be heard.
Finding Your Own Truth Starts With Releasing Pain
What I’ve learned from my coach in just a few months has changed my life forever. Much of it stems from facing past traumas and releasing them in a very specific way. I will absolutely share every useful tool I learned from my time with my coach, but for now, I wanted to share the craziest idea she left me with. The idea that’s the hardest for me to accept, but the one I need to embrace the most – leave some space in your life for magic. While you’re at it, also believe in luck.
If I can take anything from my yoga journey as well as my blogging journey, it’s that magic happens when you’re not expecting it to. When you trust that good things are coming, they typically do. When you fear bad things happening, they typically do.
So with that, I’ll leave you with the same challenge that my life coach left with me. Look for the magic in life, no matter what you’re striving for – weight loss, happiness, or a clean bill of health. Leave a little opening for it and believe that with a little luck, it will all work out.
May this new year be magical for all of us.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, healthy recipes, home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.