Yoga encourages “living artfully” — being present and aware as much as possible, thinking positively, and doing what we love every day to create a serene and happy existence — something that eludes many of us. Rather than just getting by, we can hone and perfect the skill of living. Everyone has a different expression of what it means to live artfully, but we can all get there the same way.
When we are physically and mentally present in whatever we are doing, we do it better. We aren’t going to block a goal if we’re standing at the goal post reminiscing about last night’s date, for example. We aren’t going to help a friend with a problem when we’re only half listening while worrying about the big test next week. How can we learn to live each moment artfully, gaining the most insight out of it and acting most effectively?
Asana, meditation, pranayama, and mantra japa are all practices that can help us learn to be present. When practiced on a regular basis, they strengthen the body and relax the mind while allowing one to become more self-aware. They also help us optimize our health, which always makes life easier. They bring the mind, body, and spirit into union and help to eliminate the negative effects of the mind’s endless chatter. We can learn to be fully present by noticing when we start drifting off with our thoughts and reigning our attention back in to the present. We can then act consciously and gracefully with full attention on our goals.
Having a positive frame of mind can completely change the way we see the world. By becoming more self-aware, we learn our habitual patterns and can change those that don’t serve us. Many of us struggle with doubts and anxiety, worrying about an endless barrage of (many times imagined) obstacles and difficulties. We think about all the bad things that could happen and worry that others perceive us in a negative way. Often, these worries are completely unfounded. We create our own suffering by ruminating on the various “bad” possibilities. When we realize that we are doing this, we can turn our thoughts in a more productive direction. We can transform them by envisioning good things happening and reminding ourselves of all our positive traits and accomplishments. This is not to say that thought creates reality, but thinking positively certainly doesn’t hurt, and it can alter our actions, which do affect what is really happening.
Doing what we love every day is paramount to living artfully. Most of us have hobbies, things that we enjoy doing or learning about. Often we find ourselves “too busy” to take the time to partake in such activities. By denying ourselves the right to enjoyment and fulfillment, we do ourselves and those around us a disservice. We must cultivate happiness in our lives in order to be the best people we can be. We can take the time each day to do something we love, whether it be cooking and enjoying a fresh meal, going to the driving range, taking a walk through the woods, painting a picture, or going to a cafe with a friend. The possibilities are limitless and the more things we enjoy and can choose from, the happier we will be, keeping life fresh and new every day.
Getting to know ourselves, being present, aware, and positive, and realizing our passions can help us continue to grow and learn throughout life. When we have a regular practice (yoga practice itself plus any hobby or discipline we can immerse ourselves in), life becomes exciting and full of possibilities. When we maintain a healthy body and mind, everything else is easier because we feel good and aren’t concerned about health problems. Allow your yoga practice to extend beyond the mat and into your daily life.