By Mia Togo
Do you remember what you wanted to “be” when you were a kid? There may have been a whole list of ideas that changed weekly. There was probably one thing that really stood out. For me, it was a veterinarian. Our culture often values “doing” over “being;” that doing becomes the expression of our being. So looking back I realize it was being with animals that I was passionate about, how I felt about me while I was with them. I felt inspired, present and in a state of love and acceptance. That’s who I wanted to be — not the title. Now I’m a yoga teacher, not a vet. It’s a practice I feel very passionate about doing and being. So when I ask myself, my students and clients, ‘What are you passionate about?,’ the response reveals our feeling of purpose.
Who I am, and what my purpose is is a big question that many of us ponder. Yoga is an antidote to doing because the practice takes us into a state of being through mindful movement, breath and meditation. The asana practice can appear like a doing through rigorous alignment of bones, firming and stretching of muscles, and moving in and out of shapes that seem fit for gymnasts. It’s not about what we are doing, but how we are showing up on our mats. What kind of energy are we bringing to the poses? To our relationships? To our community? Through a regular practice we get to identify ego-related patterns, limited beliefs about who we are, and expose blocks that keep us from who we want to be at our core.
I ask my students at the beginning of class to check in with what they’ve shown up with: the quality of their breath, their state of mind and the type of energy they are experiencing. This creates a platform to dive into their practice, helping them determine how deep they need to go. It’s a reminder that we all have a creative energy that dwells deep inside and connects to the source of who we are at a soul level, not merely who we are conditioned to be. One common source of discontentment is a lack of purpose, meaning what we are really here to do and, more importantly, “be.”
The practice of yoga provides a sacred, ritualized space to explore this question. The aim of yoga is to end suffering by identifying our attachments to the pursuits of the small self. These are very real and necessary, but we get into trouble when we believe our happiness is contingent on people, things, experiences and substances. Through the development of our practice we get see our higher Self more clearly and know on a soul level that joy resides within each of us. It is our birthright. In this place resides the seed of our creative inspiration and connects to our sense of purpose. The idea of passion is that it is this feeling that creates a spark, which in turn ignites the flame of purpose that inspires us to seek out experiences and people that encourage us to live the most expanded version of our Self.
This ultimately connects us to our creative energy and what we feel passionate about. It’s our own song that no one can teach us; it is to be remembered. When we tap into this source every act is one of creation. There are no mistakes. Yoga unites and brings together all parts of our selves that feel fragmented, so we feel whole and complete. When we make the choice to step away from our daily lives and onto our mats, it is an act of devotion to our Who: who do we want to be in our relationships, careers, communities, and ultimately, how can we show up aligned with our highest truth? Exploring this question can inspire us to live our passion and manifest our unique purpose.
Mia Togo grew up an avid equestrian and dancer, both of which helped pave the way to her love and devotion of yoga. Becoming a professional dancer, she worked in film, TV, stage and music videos. During this time she earned her degree in Psychology from UCLA. The competitive world of dance led to her work with Mona Miller. It was in the practice of Vinyasa yoga that she began to feel her body as a temple for healing rather than struggle. She has been a Yogaworks certified teacher and teacher trainer since 2004. She is also a mentor for the 300-hour program at Yogaworks. Mia teaches with an emphasis on detailed alignment so there is an intelligence and a purpose to her sequencing.
Photo: Yoga Baby by flickr user Autumn.