Yoga and Leaving the Past Behind

yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga teachers constantly remind their students to live in the present moment. As Yoga practitioners, we learn to focus on the present, while the future twists, and turns, in front of us. By focusing on the present, the details of the future may become an optimist’s dream. Yet, how do we deal with our past?

Many people are dragging around a burden of past regrets, which weigh them down, while closing them off from all the potential that this present moment has to offer. Living in the past is not always practiced consciously, but the negative impact is felt regardless.

There is always a myriad of different options within every single moment. If we were to sit back and obsess over all the potential choices we could make, we would be paralyzed by the fear of making a poor decision. Constant indecision is also an action of “not doing.” This is also an extremely unhealthy way to live. In the end, we must live, decide, and let the chips fall where they may, to a certain extent.

Yet, at the same time, we must also live consciously, in order to avoid inflicting pain and suffering on ourselves, or others. Short-sighted choices, snap reactions, and monumental mistakes are often made when the ego is fully entrenched and in charge of the mind. “Shoot first, and ask questions later.” is the modus operandi of the ego, which seeks to protect itself at any cost.

No one makes good decisions all the time; and as the saying goes: “hindsight is always 20/20.” Looking back at the past, while considering all the other directions an event could have taken, can lead to great pain and a sense of being wronged by life, or wronged by your own decisions.

“I am my own worst enemy.” is actually a very negative statement, which empowers the worst aspects of one’s mind. Within each of us is the ability to succeed or self-destruct, depending upon how much power we want to give the cynic, or optimist, within the deepest parts of our minds.

A Yoga session is a time of thinking only about being present for practice. If a Yoga practitioner gets caught in reverie regarding the past or the future, he or she is pulled firmly back into the present by the practice itself. Yoga demands very little from people, but one thing it constantly requires is attention. Fail to give your practice your utmost attention and it will bring your attention back to practice in one way or another.

At the end of a Yoga session, real life comes rushing in, and it is completely possible to get caught up in those repetitive negative thoughts regarding past mistakes. However, after a successful Yoga session, the practitioner now has the good sense to see that doing so is worthless. This new frame of mind is often called perspective.

Perspective is gained by distancing one’s self from a situation, and then, by looking back on it with a fresh set of eyes. No life is perfect, and all lives are touched by some form of suffering; but in the end, underneath it all, there is a thread of something inherently good that runs through it.

To let go of the past, and stop worrying for the future, is to become plugged into this underlying current of absolute goodness. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and forgive life, if necessary; but move on, and do not look back.

Only look to the past as a reference book, with lessons that might apply to this present moment. There is a lesson to be gained by learning from past successes or mistakes, but nothing can be learned if we give the past the power to haunt us.

Embrace your daily Yoga practice with all the passion and gusto possible and, in turn, your life will be blessed richly.

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4 thoughts on “Yoga and Leaving the Past Behind”

  1. I just wanted to thank you and your colleagues for such a helpful and enjoyable series of regular inspirational essays. I always look forward to receiving the newsletter and found your words on leaving the past behind very helpful. with warmest wishes, Lisa Crossley

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