Practice Laboratory

Here’s a cool thing about life: nothing happens independent of anything else. No one exists in isolation. No action exists out of context. You are the sum total of everything that’s ever happened to you (and a fair bit of what’s happened to your ancestors, too!)

Did you know that you-as-an-egg existed in your mother’s ovary when she was a fetus in your grandmother’s womb? Because a female baby is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have, you-as-an-egg existed in your grandmother’s womb. I think this is just CRAZY! 

Have you heard about epigenetics? It’s a science I was reading about in the DNA/Heritability/Nature & Nature section of my psychology textbook. 

In short, a person’s lived experiences can change the expression of their DNA which can then be passed down to their offspring. These experiences don’t change the DNA structure, they change the way the DNA expresses itself. And it’s inheritable. Which means that your ancestor’s experiences (not just their genes, like eye color) can impact who you are deep in your bones.  

We don’t have to dive into genetics to understand that the experiences of the people who raised you directly impacted your childhood and what you came to expect out of life. Just as the household you create impacts all those who spend time in your home. Maybe just a little bit, maybe just for a couple hours. But even so… 

You are a living representation of the past who exists in the present and who makes choices right now, every moment, that collectively create your future.

Collectively because the choices you make bounce off of, interact with, and weave into the lives of those around you. It’s kind of amazing and a bit mind blowing if I try to comprehend it. Like staring at the stars in the night sky and really trying to understand what I’m looking at. At some point the thought evaporates into awe. Or anxiety, depending on my baseline that day. 😉 

All this to say, it’s a great power and a great responsibility to be human, and it’s hardly easy.

When I’m having a depressey day I feel like I need to isolate myself so I don’t drag anyone down with me, when what I often need is a simple conversation with a friend. Do you know that when I started actually reaching out to people when I was feeling crappy, they THANKED ME?!

They told me they were honored I trusted them and it made them feel really great to be a part of my life in that moment. And you know what, I feel the same way when someone reaches out to me. Honored and lucky I have the chance to deepen a bond. Being close with other people is really cool and for me it requires a lot of little dives into vulnerability, usually over a pretty extended period of time. I’m grateful for that.  

What does this have to do with yoga?

What I find about my yoga practice is that the me I observe when on the mat is representative of the me I am when off the mat.

For example, I get embarrassed when I fall out of a yoga pose. As if someone is watching me, waiting for me to mess up so they can laugh. This happens even when no one can see me.

I noticed this in the laboratory of practice, where I’m cultivating focus and attention and in control of my environment. But, the insight I had about myself didn’t just stay on the mat. It wasn’t isolated and forgotten.

No, I then had the same realization out in the world when just being me. I noticed that I get embarrassed when I perceive I’ve messed up, as if someone is waiting to see it and laugh at me. It’s interesting to notice this about myself, on and off the mat.  

It’s also part of my practice to reflect and examine what I’ve noticed with curiosity and without judgment or pressure. Just slowly…over time. Every time I’m embarrassed I register it with a little more awareness. It builds out an even more interesting self-understanding. 

Just the awareness changes things. This process, the practice, changes the choices I make that collectively create my future. I don’t think I’d know how to do this without my yoga. Thanks yoga. And thanks you, for reading and for practicing along with me.  

I hope to see you this week on the mat in the laboratory of practice! 

egg image by Polina Tankilevich