One of my favorite games to play as we sit down and catch a show at night is the What If? game. I can tell you that it’s more fun for me than it is for my husband. Sometimes my What if? questions are downright silly and crafted around improbable and unrealistic concepts. Sometimes they are of a deeper, more existential variety. And then, sometimes, (in my opinion) they are practical.
A show we’ve recently been watching had me thinking what it might be like to move to a different town and completely reinvent myself. I’m from a small town; I went to college in a small town; and then, after college, I returned to that same small town that I am from. I actually like my small town; I enjoy seeing people that I’ve known for well over a decade–two decades, even–in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or in my yoga class. Still, though, I wonder what it would be like to pack up my life and hit the road, stopping at a different town, maybe a not-so-small town, and reinventing who I am.
It would not be for expedient reasons, nor for malevolent ones. However, being from a small town means you have a lot of stories that many, many people know. And these stories, these reputations, the experiences…they tend to follow us around, not necessarily harbingers of interactions or conversations, but just little shadows or sparks of light (depending on which story we’re thinking of and projecting in a single moment) that energetically follow us around. So, I wonder: What is it like to cultivate a new story? To maybe rewrite the parts I don’t like and emphasize the rest?
I think, actually, it would start to feel a little lonely.
This led me to thinking about the transformative power of yoga. My story, when I started practicing, was not my favorite. The book read pretty terribly, and the chapter of that year was, well, not great. Being the committed reader that I am, though, I finished that book and wrote a few more chapters, some of which were just as bad as that one.
As we engage further in our practice and sink a little deeper into understanding and appreciating who we really are, yoga does truly become more transformative in its nature. Every time I step onto my mat, it seems I step on with one body and leave with another. The breaths I take before my practice are not the same breaths I take at the end. I am aware that there is not a physical evolution happening (beyond maybe the sweat), but it’s a softer, sweeter, gentler avenue of change. Whether it’s a pose, a breath, or a deep dive into philosophy and ethics, I sense a growth that hadn’t been there before.
And so I realize that I don’t have to pack a bag, fill up my tank, and hit the open road. I don’t have to look that much further than that place where I am exactly, in a given moment. And even in those moments when the transformation feels painfully slow (likely as a result of my near-absent patience and frustration in baby steps), I know it’s happening, and that’s enough.
Where do you feel that you are transforming in your life? And, if you’re feeling stuck, is it that you are well and truly stuck, or do you just need to look ahead and take that first step? And then another, and another, and another, until you are firmly on that path of change and moving through your layers and finding your deeper, empowered self?
If you’re looking to start making change, I’d love to recommend a good read for you. How Yoga Works, by Michael Roach and Christie McNally, is an absolutely beautiful account of not only personal transformation, but also the impact of that transformation on others. With the yoga sutras woven into this tale, not only will you witness the heartwarming and bittersweet journeys of several individiuals, but also the collective healing of an entire town.