Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Grace. What it means to me and why I chose to name my business Grace Yoga (and no, it’s not my name!). To me the word grace helps me understand and define the way I want to live my life.
- What even is grace?
The top two definitions in the Oxford Dictionary of English are: smoothness and elegance of movement, and courteous good will. The first is probably the most well-known definition of what we consider grace – a ballerina’s graceful movements for example. This is certainly something that I aim towards when I’m practising flows on my mat and generally when I’m flowing in life. However, it’s the second definition that begins to open up what grace means to me. This idea of courteous goodwill. The way I understand it in my life is as kindness to all beings. Acting from a place of love rather than a place of fear, so that all actions can be right and support all (including yourself).
Being kind is my number one philosophy. It’s not always easy when you come across people who have values that seem to oppose yours, but in these instances I believe it is even more important to practise empathy and kindness (I believe it, I don’t always manage it!) – if everybody had the same values and opinions it would be easier to work from your place of love, and we wouldn’t get a good chance to practise! One important lesson I’ve learned and am learning is that kindness doesn’t always equate with being nice. Encouraging someone or saying yes to something that you disagree with, just to be nice, does a disservice to yourself and anyone else involved.
- Grace as kindness..
Kindness is my overarching definition of grace. To others and to self. Learning to be kind to yourself helps you not only to extend that kindness to others but also to ensure that your actions speak your truth. Take for example a party invitation. Perhaps you really want to go, and that’s great and you can go and both you and the inviter are happy. But maybe your truth is that you really don’t want to go and so you need to be kind to yourself and say no to the invitation. Or maybe your truth is that in this instance, refusing the invitation and hurting the person’s feelings by not going would actually hurt you more than going. You have to be nuanced in your self-understanding to see which is the get out and which is the truth. Whichever, the most graceful response is always the true one and having self-compassion can help you recognise your truth.
- Grace as strength…
Another important aspect of living a grace-full life is standing up for those who don’t have a voice. This can be hard, and sometimes you end up hurting others in doing so, but if you do what you can to be kind and behave with grace you will know that you are doing your best and feel comfortable in your actions. For me this shows up in my life through veganism. I strive to stand up for what I believe in but also to find balance between that and maintaining loving and supportive relationships with those around me who have a different set of values around this subject.
- Grace as love…
Striving to act from love can help engender understanding of other people and of life. For me, having a yoga practice that includes pranayama and meditation as well as asana helps me to practise living with grace. It energises me to find the Grace in everyday life to stop reaching for newness (my strongest addiction).
One of my absolutely favourite quotes was introduced to me by my wonderful teacher and friend Emma Warmington (http://jivaniyoga.com/). ‘Grace will breathe you until she is done’, as said by Douglas Brooks (professor of religion at University of Rochester). These words give me hope. Grace is in us all, we cannot help but live gracefully if we can open ourselves and accept it.