Implementing yogic philosophy in my life caused a metamorphic change to my inner reality, thus transforming my outer reality as well. I dabbled in yoga for years, practicing some months, and forgetting it others. I viewed yoga as a physical, stretching practice to complement competitive running; the philosophy escaped me. Prior to my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), I often got caught up in the external world. I found myself consistently grasping at straws, looking for the next best thing to achieve happiness. Although it may be cliché, life is about seeking joy in the journey. There will never be a time where you kick back your feet and go, “Okay, now I’ve reached happiness. I’m going to be done now.”
Once I learned to control my thoughts, my emotions stopped controlling me. The moment everything changed was the moment I sought to improve my internal reality. When I realized my thoughts on external circumstances represented a projection — or a mirror — of my intrinsic world, a switch flickered.
I remember the exact moment the light went off: my yoga teacher, Mollie Busby, began describing the process of raking leaves.
“Have you ever raked leaves just to rake leaves?” She asked my YTT class. We all shook our heads, signaling “no.”
“Right,” she said. “You probably rake leaves into a pile to clear your yard.”
Busby continued, explaining why expecting certain outcomes, and disregarding the journey, can be devastating. Say you spend two hours raking leaves to clear your yard, only to have a huge gust of wind disperse the leaves, polluting your yard once again. Nothing guarantees your leaf pile won’t soon scatter at any moment. On the other hand, say you set out to rake leaves just to rake leaves. Yes, you’d like to clear your yard, but you’re just raking leaves. Then, when that gust of wind comes, you shrug your shoulders and continue raking again because you’re raking leaves anyways.
That is the journey. We’re all just raking leaves.
My teacher kept explaining the enemy to being present, which is focusing on only outcomes. The main takeaway is no outcome can ever be guaranteed to happen. Focusing on outcomes ensures you’ll always live in the future or in the past — if you’re regretting past results. Life is better and more fulfilling when you can train your brain to live in the moment.
In high school, prior to my YTT, I lived to achieve. I kept hoping one day one of my achievements would make me feel fulfilled. To better give you an idea: I qualified for the Boston marathon, became Valedictorian, founded and presided over Yoga Club, ran varsity cross country and track and was Editor-in-Chief of my 2600-student high school. My next achievement? I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher. Little did I know how drastically my outlook on life could change.
During my first weekend of YTT, I received my primary homework task: thirty minutes of daily meditation. Thirty minutes of sitting alone — soaking in my own critically-voiced thoughts — triggered discomfort. In fact, I mastered the art of being so busy I didn’t have time to think or face myself. However, being the overachiever that I am, I took it as a challenge to be conquered. So, I begrudgingly meditated, unknowingly beginning a new journey.
Every YTT is different. I suggest researching each one to ensure it will match your vibration and intention. My teachers taught alignment and sequencing, but they homed in on instructional authenticity. Since I esteem honesty highly, nearly everything they taught resonated. How can an instructor hold space for students if they cannot hold space for their self?
Instantly, my teachers defogged the discipline of yoga. Yoga means to yoke or union. Yoga is the union between the body and mind. Therefore, anyone can be a yogi without practicing the well-known, westernized studio classes. Whenever you do something mindfully, where your mind and body exist in harmony, you’re practicing yoga. When I heard that, I sat there, dumbfounded. Yoga isn’t about the pose or exercise; it’s about continually being present in your body.
Now, a year and a half after completing my YTT, I experience life in a new light. My anxiety nearly dissipated. I cherish little moments and take less things for granted. Sometimes I get caught up in the outcome, but I’m better equipped and trained to yank myself back to the present. It’s great to have goals, but always paramount to rake the leaves and enjoy the journey.
Photo by Lucas Pezeta.