“Try to let go of expectations for this practice, your day and even your life.”
The yoga instructor said each word slowly, emphatically—I can still hear the mantra to this day.
Nevertheless, in my head, that world is long gone and I’ve traveled to another dimension. It is hard to believe that was just three weeks and a quick stretch ago.
Somehow, I found myself doing chaturanga in the middle of a flourishing jungle in Costa Rica. Meanwhile, the sharp, screeching cicada chirps pierced my humble attempt to attain ‘inner peace.’ At the time, I thought that my first yoga class could not have been cheesier; of course, the instructor was painfully spiritual, and an embarrassed newcomer like myself was not ready for that level of straightforwardness.
Like many others, I do not like being reminded that my goals are out of my control—that my fantasies may not manifest in the future. To combat this universal fear, we often formulate a detailed itinerary of how to spend every waking moment, creating a false sense of control. Being prepared for the ups and downs of life is essential, but only thinking of the future can cause a loss of awareness of what is going on right in front of one’s eyes.
In a long period of revelation, I realized that the words of the yoga teacher could not have been truer. Although there is no way to completely ignore one’s future desires, living in the moment is vital to learn. Being present is undoubtedly a skill and must be practiced through daily self-awareness.
As we start a new school year, academic expectations ramp up and social pressures are reapplied. In an ideal world, we would release all expectations and experience life moment by moment. We would be aware of ourselves in order to create lasting memories rather than living in moments days and weeks away.
Realistically, we set lofty expectations that, even when reached, may not feel quite right. I finally dragged myself to my first yoga class, but instead of being proud, I found myself disappointed that I could barely keep up with the sweaty man grunting in the back.
Eckhart Tolle, a world-renowned spiritual teacher, encourages captivating oneself in the here and now. He believes that people will inevitably judge a situation after observing it, but that they can choose how they respond to that judgement.
Thus, it seems that our reaction to those judgments is what will determine our happiness. Our goal cannot be to release all expectations for the future, but to release our expectation that we will always be happy. We must realize that negative feelings will come and go throughout the school year and that staying engrossed in the journey, instead of fixating on the result, will yield maximum growth and happiness.
Throughout the session, stretching nearly tore my hamstrings and by the time we got to savasana, the corpse pose, I could barely put my aching body to rest.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but be grateful for the opportunity it gave me to reflect on the present. Often times, when a less-than-ideal situation arises, we try to get out of it as soon as possible, whether or not there is an exit route in the first place. We do not always realize that if we embrace our inevitable hardships, we could find something even better than we expected.
But just to be clear, I do not plan on going back to yoga any time soon.