I just so happened to have already been reading the book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra before my visit to Virginia, and finished it while I was there.  Reading that book while practicing yoga each day at Flow Yoga was pure providence.  The basic tenets of both the book and the classes reinforced one another beautifully.  As there are basically three sections in a yoga class (the beginning still time, the active practice, and shavasana at the end), there are also three main sections in the book (the first of which emphasizes the body, the second the soul, and the third about how to harmonize the two).  What I read in the final pages of Chopra’s book sounded a lot like what I heard on the mat at Flow; of the ten detailed “Steps to Wholeness” he provides, three were especially similar to yogic principles.
Step One – Nourish Your Light Body.  Chopra wrote, “As you approach each day, consciously channel energy into your vision” which, to me, bespeaks the concept “intention” that is encouraged at the beginning of each yoga session.  Furthermore, his pointers, too, sound like terms I heard during yoga wherein he heartens the reader to be dynamic, loving, creative, spontaneous, playful, knowing, and ever expanding.  Instead of putting these concepts in the box of “only for my individual personal growth,” or thinking this is “only for yoga class,” why don’t we strive to apply these characteristics to all areas of our lives – physically, mentally, and spiritually?

the real Thinker and the wannabe Thinker
Venice Italy, July 2009

Step Three – Commit Yourself to Deeper Awareness.  “In practical terms, when you commit yourself every day to deeper awareness, you are asking for new vision, new beliefs, and a new sense of self.—New vision is creative vision, and you can cultivate it every day.  There is unlimited inspiration hidden inside everyday things, waiting for you to pull it out.”  I read this as – Be inspired by the ordinary! Something is only ordinary (in the boring connotation of that word) if you see it as such.  Open yourself up or else you won’t ever “get” the inspiration you may just be listlessly waiting around for.  A quote from Chopra earlier in the book succinctly summaries what I’m getting at: “Life is perpetually fresh, so your path can be just as fresh.  Otherwise, if you postpone your life waiting for a great and glorious gift to be bestowed, the gift may never come, and your life will be postponed forever.” All of this reminds me, too, of the Biblical passage (Revelation 3:20) where we are told that God does knock at the door of our hearts, but it’s our choice to let Him in or not.  Either way, it’s up to you to decide how you want to open yourself up or not; you cannot blame other people or circumstances for everything because, heck!, even science shows that people who are resilient and successful aren’t people who just lucked out and got everything easy, but are people who seek self-awareness and have an optimistic frame of mind. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/24/thrive.in.hard.times.enayati/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

Step Six – Relate To Your Body Consciously.  “Relating to your body calls for the same basic attitudes that go into any intimate relationship.  Tending to them every day keeps the relationship healthy.  They are: trust, consideration, honesty, mutual cooperation, and loving appreciation.” Moreover, “the key to the body’s reliability lies in cooperation: only ask for as much as you have given.” Don’t be unreasonable with your body, asking it to do something it is not capable of, and then get mad at it when it can’t perform.  This reminds me of when yoga instructors tell us to be patient with our bodies, listen to them, and don’t push them because there is no right or wrong, good or bad, pose in yoga; it’s more about what you can do that day, there, in that moment, on the mat, and what is good for you that particular session.  Even beyond that, there’s the overarching lifelong respect you should cultivate for your body.  Even someone like me (with half a dozen herniated discs, scoliosis, arthritis, tendonitis, and fibromyalgia by 30) respects and cherishes my body!   Our body is our temple; let’s treat it as such. Trust and believe that you’ll be living in it for a very long time; don’t assume that it will break down and leave you stranded, or else that will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy with how closely  mind and body are clearly connected.  Now, I am hardly perfect at this all time, but I’m encouraging myself to do so as much as I am to those of you who are reading this. 😉  Anyway, I wanted to insert one last quote from Chopra on this topic –  “The highest aim in life is the marriage of mind and soul, and since the body links the two, it deserves to be a part of a more perfect union as the years unfold.  If you aim to be more aware, wiser, and more fulfilled in the future, invite your body to join that future as an equal partner.” Your body is the vessel for your mind and soul, so take care of it as deeply as you can.

By the end of my seven straight days of yoga and after completing the book, I felt a question pressing on me: What does “focus” really mean?  And it seems that what it means to me is a balanced combo of the yogic principles emphasized at Flow Yoga and the steps Chopra describes…. basically, by connecting to the awareness of self, soul, relationship, and God, and living according to the fullness and genuineness of those relationships you find “true” focus.  It’s really not about checking accomplishments off a to-do list, doing a yoga pose the best, running the fastest, making the most money, or one upping someone else.  Type A’s, don’t fret! You can incorporate these principles and still be successful; you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other, but find the harmony of their combination.  Even as I spent just one week working on my physical balance, I was surprised to see my mental balance (and therefore, focus) increase, as well, because of how all of these principles were seamlessly woven into each class I attended…how reading and yoga’ing beautifully complimented one another during the “Semper Stretch” week of Semper Sarah adventures.  Thank you once more, Flow Yoga 

“We weave ourselves into a tapestry of experience that grows more exalted as time passes, yet each thread is nothing but a wisp of thought, desire, or feeling.  Every moment lived adds another stitch, and even if you cannot envision what the final pattern will look like, it helps to know that the thread is golden.”