As soon as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last week, I knew it would be the theme for my next Patch column. But what does hockey have to do with wellness, yoga and the neighborhood, which are the themes of this regular Patch contribution? Well, many things. Here’s a look at some of the themes that this amazing accomplishment brings to mind:
Connection: There is no denying that sports are one of the greatest things to connect people both on a local, national and international level. It’s what brings parents out with their kids to the soccer field; it brings friends out to local pubs to root on their favorite team. I remember fondly as all my grandparents watched baseball long into their senior years and then would recount their favorite plays over family dinners. Connection is a central theme in yoga. The word “yoga” means, “to connect, bind or yoke,” so it’s an easy thing to draw a parallel between the two. Yoga helps us feel connected to our bodies and sports helps us feel connected to each other.
Community: I had many conversations this week with people I didn’t really know in the neighborhood, but in the course of standing in line, walking the dog and grabbing a cup of tea, inevitably words were exchanged about the great drama playing itself out on the ice, both here and in Vancouver. Sports give us a something to talk to our neighbors about and in striking up a conversation once, it leads to future “hellos” and maybe even is the basis for starting a friendship. Yoga teaches us to be open to not to ourselves but to others around us. Every time you open yourself up to conversation with a new neighbor, you’re demonstrating one of the key foundations of yoga.
Tapas: No, I’m not referring to those cute little platters of food you get at a Spanish restaurant. The word “tapas” in yoga refers to the concept of applying yourself completely to a goal or task -- to literally generate “heat” as you concentrate. From Wikipedia, “a personal endeavor of discipline, undertaken to achieve a goal, accompanying suffering and pain.” I know from watching hockey that there seems to be a good deal of pain involved as players protect and defend, but more importantly, the Bruins (and many of our greatest sports teams and individuals) show us what it means to sacrifice, apply oneself fully and be committed, above all else, to a goal. Anyone that’s trained for a road race, committed to eat healthy, dropped a bad habit, or started a yoga practice knows that it’s a long road, fraught with pitfalls and temptations. But hard work is often the best, most rewarding kind. As we watched the Bruins celebrate after the game, we could see their collective relief as they realized the long road of discipline had paid off.
Presence: One of the central themes of yoga and wellness that I love to work with is the idea of being right where you are, fully and completely, even if you have visions of getting someplace else. The idea of playing one hockey game at a time, one hole of golf at a time, running one mile at a time, dropping one bad habit at a time, making one good choice at a time… this is the hard but sustainable work that is done when we’re completely present and connected. In the context of the hockey playoffs, of course the Bruins wanted to win the cup, but to win, they had to commit to being 100 percent present and connected to the moment in front of them. As soon as you start to get ahead of yourself, that’s when you make a mistake. You’re not paying attention! One of the keys to success in sports is presence and it’s a central theme of yoga.
Suffering: Yoga has tremendous depth to it and in addition to the physical practice of yoga are thousands of years of philosophy and profound wisdom. One of the central themes of Buddhism is the idea that suffering is part of life and yet, despite that, morbid thought is a challenge. How can we know this and still somehow find peace and happiness? Of course, in sports, things seem to exist in polar opposites. You have a winner and a loser and the winners experience joy and the losers, pain. But if we look closer we can see the finer shades of grey. We can see that among each experience there are shades of both joy and pain and even if the face of pain, we can often find growth and wisdom that will last long into our lives.
Congratulation to the Boston Bruins! May their discipline, presence and team spirit be an inspiration to us all.