A child becomes an adult, a student a teacher, an acquaintance a best friend. Change is a constant in all of our lives. We know this truth on a conceptual level, yet when we're faced with change, we're some how surprised. A death, a breakup, a job loss can all come as shocks, even though we know these events are predictable parts of life.
If signs of impermanence are everywhere, why is change so hard to accept? We crave the consistency and the security it gives us. A stable job, a life-long partner, a weekly pastime all provide feelings of future security. There's nothing wrong with craving consistency, but over-attachment to our norms can be harmful to our happiness and well-being. When you stay at a toxic job because you fear unemployment, or hold onto an unhealthy relationship out of a fear of loneliness – you hurt yourself. We’ve all seen ourselves and loved ones make these types of painful decisions. It's because the predictable negative outcome seems less scary then stepping into the unknown. Predictability gives a sense of control, but sometimes at our own expense.
We can see how these patterns play out on our yoga mats. Just like the world around us, our bodies are constantly changing. On some days, we are stiff and rigid. On other days, we find ourselves gracefully flowing into poses we never thought possible. When we listen closely to our body and respect its limitations on a day-to-day basis, our practice will always bring us ease and comfort. The practice will progress from a place of honesty, not force. When we force ourselves into the posture because it was possible yesterday, we may end up with a sore muscle (or worse) to remind us that we made a mistake: we didn't listen to our body in the present.
Routine is an essential ingredient to health and happiness. No yogi would be able to consistently wake up at 6 am to practice without solid habits. But what's important to remember is that – even while maintaining a routine – we learn to turn off autopilot, and experience what our bodies are telling us in the moment. Is what we are doing making us happy? Is this yoga posture going to make me feel better for worse?
We don't have to look externally for inner contentment, our bodies are yearning to tell us. We just need to listen, one deep breath at a time.