Editor's note: This post features Caroline Layzell's journey into a yogic lifestyle and how she learned to let go of both her own and, societal expectations of life, relationships, goals, and ideals. It is only once you learn to let go that you can truly embrace the now and live in the moment. No one can be sure what their future will hold, so we must learn to appreciate each day of the spectacular journey.
One of the main things that I have learned through my yoga practice and my years as a yoga teacher is that our journey in life is all about letting go and learning to live in the moment. Letting go of what we think we are, what we think we should be, and what we are supposed to achieve. Letting go of what we think we are meant to look like, feel like and the hardest thing for me but by far the most important is letting go of what we think.
“When you let go of expectation you can embrace life with everything it brings you. Take each moment as it comes. Trust in the infinite wisdom you have within and in your ability to know what to do when the moment arises. Let go of expectation. Live now. You know what to do.”
We live in a society filled with expectations, ones placed on us by our bosses, our family, our partners, and our peers. A lot of us have grown up with an idea of what our lives are supposed to look like. We go to school, then university, we study hard, get a good job with a good wage, and good prospects for the future. We meet someone, we date, we get engaged, then married, buy a house together (or alone), we have some pets, and some children, and settle into happy ever after. We live our lives focused on the future - on our evenings after work, our weekends, our holidays, living in daydreams.
It happens to so many of us. Myself included. I had spent nearly 35 years pursuing this dream, always knowing deep down that there was something more that I was supposed to be doing, but suppressing the thoughts until one day I just couldn’t keep them inside anymore.
I realized that I had spent my whole life weighing up pros and cons, risks versus rewards, working out when I would reach happy if I kept on this path. My guarded heart, my safe decisions, my doubts and worries about every little step I took – that was no way to live. I became so uninspired by the work I was doing, of the steadiness and predictability of it all. Nothing excited me anymore. Until finally the inner light shone through and I finally, eventually decided to pursue what excited me instead.
I didn’t know at the time what exactly that looked like, but I resigned from my corporate job, sold my flat, packed up my world into a small backpack and took a one-way flight to Asia with my yoga mat and dive gear and a deliriously excited smile on my face! Here I was, finally living in the now and not waiting for the future.
I was free!
I was also terrified…but it felt more right than anything I had ever done before.
Traveling in itself was my first step in the journey of letting go. The simple definition of travel means you have to live moment-by-moment, step-by-step, breath-by-breath, You are open to whatever comes to you on your journey; your path. The activities, the countries, and the people you meet are welcomed with open arms. You start to recognize that each person you encounter along the way serves a valuable lesson for you in your search for your real path.
Guess what? My journey brought me rushing head first towards yoga like a freight train running out of control. I didn’t even see it coming but when I landed, I felt as though I had come home. Yoga revealed to me that life is SO much more than I had thought. There is so much more to be experienced and lived, and as my journey continues to unfold before me I realize that there is no ‘ideal’ way to live, it’s only ‘our’ way.
Yoga taught me to embrace change, to accept that life cannot be predicted, that nothing is permanent, that the real joy in life is flowing into the unknown, trusting myself to handle the inevitable highs and lows that are thrown my way.
Our choices, our beliefs, our values, are what shape our journey.
When we begin to let go, it is as if everything begins to break down. All of the things that we used to define ourselves by slowly begin to vanish in a blink of an eye. Our expectations disappear and fade from memory and we realize that reality - our own version of reality - is something completely subjective, and impermanent. We see that every individual is responsible for their own happiness, and is uniquely special and on their very own journey.
We begin to “release the handbrake” on life. This is an expression that my running coach used to say to me often, and at the time I had no idea what he meant. Now I see the man was a genius.
In this knowledge, we begin to live more deeply from our own truth. Listening to our authentic self. Knowing that everyone we meet along our journey, and every situation that we encounter, is most likely, just another lesson in letting go- in truly living every moment. Ever wonder why sometimes we find ourselves in similar situations time after time? A sense of deja vu? It’s life sending us the same lessons until we learn from them, helping us to master the art of letting go. It’s a beautiful lesson, this wonderful life of ours. It’s what motivates me to teach yoga every day- to share what I have learned.
Eckhart Tolle reminds us:
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
Drop the Reins
By letting go, of our beliefs, our expectations, our need to control the outcomes of life or other people, we find happiness. We find our direction in life. We lay our consciousness open to the universe, and every step that we take in the right direction brings us closer to our real self. When we learn to live in happiness, we attract happiness. When we start to live our lives guided by what we love, everything else falls into place.
Taking that first step, finding, trusting and keeping the faith is the hardest piece of the puzzle, but by far the most rewarding thing that will ever come to you. Letting go is the hardest thing to do but also the most liberating because it means you're no longer controlled by that attachment.
Learn to live your life to inspire yourself, and your loved ones, and those people watching in the background. Inspiration is like happiness, it is deliciously contagious so smile at the world each day, make an intention each morning as you wake up, and then put it out there to the universe. See what happens.
5 ways that yoga helps you to let go and appreciate the now:
1. Surrender to the moment
Yogis have the ability to get lost in their breath, in the moment and take one step at a time on their way into a challenging new adventure or asana practice, or an unexpected change of direction. When you live in the moment and surrender to what’s happening on your mat or on the next step of your journey, you always seem to end up exactly where you need to be. You feel your troubles melt away, and this newfound clarity allows you peace of mind to guide you on your journey.
2. Connect with your breath
Yoga teaches you how to connect with your breath. Somehow a deep breath in and a big sigh out will help release the tension of the moment. Breathe it all in, let it all go, re-center and go to that safe, comfortable place within – which leads us to point 3. Each new breath is also an opportunity to master the art of letting go. An opportunity to live in that very moment – each new breath is an opportunity to start afresh. Like a clean slate. How cool is that?
3. Find stillness
Yoga provides a safe space, a sanctuary, for you to go when your mind starts to wander or when the ego tries to talk you out of walking away from what no longer serves you. Whether your practice is a 20-minute sun salutation flow or a 90-minute advanced asana you will always find yourself coming to a place of sanity, of peace and stillness within your heart and mind as soon as you connect with your mat. It is in this calm place, in the moment between the breaths that the changes begin to take place.
4. Have faith in your journey
Yoga has this remarkable ability to show you the way to learn to love all of your perfect imperfections :) To recognize that even when one door closes, to feel safe in the knowledge that another will open. It teaches us to have faith in the universe, to learn to trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now, right here. The skill to listen, and actually hear, your inner voice, your authentic self.
5. Take responsibility for your happiness
The idea of non-possessiveness also means letting go of anything that no longer serves us or that we’ve outgrown—anything that prevents us from moving forward. That could be a relationship, a friendship, a job, and a city. Anything that prevents you from moving forward in a healthy fashion. It teaches us to live life in a centered way, rooted in our inner reality—not being dependent on or clinging to others, or expecting them to make us happy and fulfilled. Taking responsibility for our own happiness.
We only get one shot at life, and nothing is permanent so make it worth it. Take what you need to make your life something spectacular. Think about your life as a story, one that is worth reading. A story, a journey, an adventure that you hope one day someone will read and say wow that inspired me. Start to let go of the reins and take pleasure in moving in the direction that makes you come alive.
So, next time you practice yoga, instead of thinking about it, talking about or analyzing it, try just being it. Try letting go. And then share your experience.
Inspire and motivate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Caroline Layzell is an E-RYT 500 yoga teacher who is passionate about sharing her love of vinyasa, yin yoga, fly high yoga and SUP yoga to those around her! Caroline came to yoga from a lifetime of marathon training, cross country running, triathlons and short distance races. It helped her to put her body back together after numerous injuries, and it is from here that her passion began! Now she is a self-confessed anatomy geek and yogi with a love of the human body, and how yoga helps us to function well physically as well as how it allows us to dig deeper in our own personal journey of self-discovery! Join Caroline on Facebook, Instagram, or on her website