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Going in Circles

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Two yogis walk into a bar . . . No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It was my last Saturday night!

I’d just finished two visiting workshops in Boston, and I was ravenously hungry. I’d meant to grab a power lunch between classes, but I was enjoying questions from the students so much that time slipped away.

My friend and fantastic teacher Ame Wren invited me to join her for a post-class meal.
Nestled into velvet chairs, with ivories tickling in the background, Ame and I began a conversation about yoga, teaching, life, love, and each other. It was rewarding, inspiring, and somehow made the already yummy food taste even better.

As we spoke, I noticed two young women sitting at the table next to us. One was complaining to the other about the no-good man in her life. From what I could gather, the list of no-goodies went something like this:

“He doesn’t love me. He disrespects me. He’s out all night. He lies to me. I’m miserable with him . . . but I love him. What am I going to do?”

Then the other woman would say something in response, and the litany of complaints would begin all over again. This maddening audio loop went on for a good two hours.

Luckily, I was able to draw in and focus on Ame, but every time I checked back with the ladies, it was the exact same story. No resolution, just more words.

In yoga we say “repetition is magic,” but we must also learn the difference between a constructive action and a destructive one lies in the type of repetition we choose.

A circular repetition means that you say you want change, yet you do the same thing over and over again, only to end up in the same place as when you began. An example of this is doing gentle yoga classes, yet expecting big gains in strength and endurance.

A linear repetition means that, though you repeat certain behaviors, they are ones that move you forward toward an outcome. For example, holding your poses a little longer each week and then expecting more strength and endurance. Think of the difference in power and purpose between a bog and a river.

It gets even better when within the quest for more linear repetition in your life, you can cultivate tapas and dedicate your energy towards something that serves you to reach the goals you set for yourself. Tapas, often understood as just plain “heat,” as in a vigorous asana practice, also translates as the “fires of transformation.” Linear habits partnered with tapas direct our energy towards those repetitive thoughts, words and actions which light our fire, inspire us to live with passion, and keep us shining bright from the inside out.

After Ame and I left dinner, and I walked home in the brisk Boston night, I felt more invigorated and alive. I wondered, though, how the other women were feeling. If it was anything like I’d experienced after similar conversations, perhaps drained, and certainly not more vibrant.

An old yogic saying goes, “Save your breath to cool your porridge.” I wished those girls had spoken about the guy for 10 minutes, and then spent the rest of their energy on enjoying the food, the night, and each other.

After all, life is to be lived, and tapas–like a great meal–is to be lit into at any possible opportunity.

Core Question: Where in your life could you move from circular to linear habits? What lights your fire? How can you bring more passion into your days?

Core Posture: A great pose for stoking the fires of transformation:

Core Plank: From Down Dog, split one leg into the air, and on the exhale, sweep the knee into your chest, and draw shoulders over wrists. As you press your hands into the earth, round your hips and back sky high to build arm and core strength. Repeat this move 3-5 times before stepping forward to your standing poses. If it’s too challenging, back it off by doing Core Plank on hands and knees.