A manifesto is a declaration of ideals and intentions. There have been quite a few famous manifesto’s throughout history. For example, the Declaration of Independence is a manifesto. As is Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. A manifesto is what you want and wish for. It is something you believe in your heart to be true or has the potential to come to fruition if given the attention it deserves. It’s a statement about what you feel is right in your heart. A yoga manifesto can simply be a way of looking at your practice differently by assigning it a grander purpose. Your manifesto can serve as a “big picture” san culpa (a heartfelt intention) for your yoga which can, in turn, benefit your personal development.
With yoga there is a give and take – an inhale, exhale, ingest, expel. Yoga will give (and give some more), but what do you really want from it? Why do you practice?
Because of the power to provoke change, manifesto’s are embraced by artists, writers and revolutionaries. You do not have to be any of these types to draw up your own yoga manifesto. Writing a yoga manifesto can appeal to anyone, but more than likely it will appeal to those in the exploratory stages of a regular practice. Maybe you have been to a few classes – maybe you are a beginner? Perhaps you are not quite sure you even like it yet. Here’s what you can do to figure it out:
Just go to class
In order to really “get” yoga, you must go to class. A lot. Go to as many different classes as you can. Find out what works for you. What do you like? Do you like an easy, relaxed, restorative yoga practice, or do you crave a physically challenging workout? What kind of teacher do you respond the best to? Do you like an instructor with a sense of humor? One that offers many variations of the poses, teaches you how to use props, and sets a non-competitive tone for the whole class? Do you like when the instructor explains the philosophies of yoga as he or she teaches? Do you prefer to be corrected and adjusted so that you get the postures right? Do you want to be transported to the edge of what you are capable of doing? There are so many different styles of yoga and each teacher brings a unique background and perspective to every class. It can be fun and interesting to “see what’s out there” and to really find out what you like the best. Remember, there are many reasons why people choose to practice yoga. If you are exploring yoga as a way to add something different into your fitness routine, do yourself a favor and don’t count it out until you’ve explored the many options and classes that are available. This is your personal yoga. Yours. And this is your manifesto. You can’t write your manifesto without exploring your options and figuring out what it is that you like and don’t like.
Meet yourself where you are
In any class, simply meet yourself where you are. Do whatever your body can do. It’s all good. If you are engaged in a forward fold and your hands can touch the the ground, great! But if they stop at your shins, that’s great too. That is what “meeting yourself where you are” means. Yoga should never feel like a competition. If you leave class feeling renewed, try to reflect upon why. Was it the style? Was it that instructor? Your manifesto will have three basic components: your core beliefs, your goals for your yoga practice, and the wisdom that will eventually come along with it. To get started, jot down some of your thoughts. Write, “I believe, I want, and I know” on a piece of paper. Leave plenty of room to respond to these prompts as you begin to explore your yoga.
Read, study, and learn
Yoga is fascinating because it challenges and puts to rest conventional ideas about exercise and emotional well being. Yoga, as a subject, is as interesting as it is complex. There is so much to learn! Studying the origin of, and ancient philosophy behind yoga, and how it contests conventional religion and spirituality, is both riveting and revealing. My feeling is that yoga brings the soul of a person to the forefront of his or her own life instead of bottling it, and keeping it hidden inside. Age, for example, becomes just a number when you get to know a person via the soul within. Do you ever notice how some people just radiate kindness, gratitude, humility and happiness? Well, that is a person’s fortified soul showing itself. You see the human being within, while the body is a mere vessel. When I began to practice yoga, I decided I needed to know more. I read, studied, and made notes in order to better understand what it was that made me feel so good. Yoga made me feel whole from the inside out and it became my catalyst for transformation.
Practice, practice, practice
This falls into the same category of “just go to class.” While it’s important to explore many different styles of yoga, it’s also important to just practice. Practice at home. Practice at work. Practice is simply doing it. It’s not just about stretching and poses and setting aside a ton of time, it’s about your mindset. Incorporate yoga philosophy into your daily life and watch how your life changes around you – watch how your life and the people in it respond to you. My running completely changed once I started practicing yoga regularly. Not only were my muscles treated to lengthy stretching, my ticking, obsessive, mind was put to rest as well. There is always a moment during my run when my mind and body are completely at peace. I attribute that feeling to my on-going yoga practice.
Write your manifesto, and then live it
Write down your thoughts. Write down what you believe, what you want, and what you know. Then, continue to live your practice. Adopt a different pathway regarding food, exercise, and life management. As I delightfully discovered, exploring yoga made a big difference in the way I feel about and see my body and mind. In some way, shape or form, I try to incorporate yoga into my daily life. My yoga surfaces in the compassion I show toward other beings. It spills out onto my mat during a longer, “formal” class when I am showing compassion for myself, and giving my body what it needs to serve me well. It is expressed when my words tumble out onto paper. What I believe, what I want and what I know to be true have become very clear. Think of your manifesto as a declaration of your core values. I live differently now that I have assigned a larger purpose for my practice. It has become a mission statement for my life.
Keep in mind that your yoga practice will change and grow over time. As you begin to understand it, your manifesto, a living document, will change as well. Life is about change – adapting and being open to it. Let your yoga manifesto grow along with you and learn to embrace your practice one pose, one breath, at a time.
Here is my yoga manifesto:
I believe that all living beings begin with limitless potential. I believe that all human beings are born innocent and beautiful in body, mind, and soul. I believe that if I show compassion for myself through my yoga practice, I can maintain my fitness and sobriety so that I can fully show compassion for others. I believe in my heart that yoga is soul food for anyone who breathes. I want to continue to explore yoga through regular practice and progressive learning. I want other people to discover the joys and life altering benefits of a regular yoga practice. I want to understand the ancient philosophies behind my yoga practice so that I can incorporate peace, patience, and kindness into my daily life. I know this much is true: the more I practice my yoga, the more I discover how much I still need to learn about myself and my core beliefs. I know that yoga brings me the sense of purpose and connection with my body that I have been looking for my whole life. I know that my yoga practice has brought clarity and truth to my life, and as I continue to evolve, it will remain a significant part of who I am.