Have you always wanted to start a yoga practice, but weren’t quite convinced it was worth it? Maybe you didn’t want to “waste time” just stretching, or heard it was some cult-like, religious thing…. I’m happy to tell you neither is true.
From personal experience, and that of my students, I can confidently confirm that this is what happens when you decide to incorporate yoga into your life, and that includes meditation:
Once a week: you’ll get sore
Three times a week: you’ll get strong
Every day: you’ll transform your life.
Transform your life?
After 16 years of a regular yoga practice, I recognize that the challenges and triumphs I encounter off my mat, are most often a reflection of my practice….. what I experience on the mat, I then cultivate off of it.
When we start out, the flexibility and strength may not be there to do each pose 100%, or even 50%, but over days and weeks and months and years, our bodies begin to soften, open, and respond to the possibility of moving past limitations and into more advanced variations. What was once thought impossible is now possible, and in the process we learn that the same can be true in life.
Do you face a challenging pose with excitement or fear? Are you excited to try a new pose, or wish the teacher would do the same thing week after week? When you drop your baggage at the door and approach your practice with the mindset of a child, where nothing is impossible and you have no limitations, then you notice that not only is your practice more easeful, but also your life. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I guarantee you, it does happen.
Challenging poses, difficulty breathing, self-judgment, sadness, and even fear unexpectedly crop up on any given day when you roll out my mat. And what’s going on in your life? Usually, some sort of stress or difficult situation you are navigating your way through. But learning to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation is the whole point of yoga. To leave your comfort zone and still be able to thrive in any given situation- whether it’s an arm balance, divorce, illness, or unemployment.
You find a way to create confidence in your body to hold you up physically, and then develop that same strength in your mind to get you through an experience you are convinced is going to kick your a**.
There are days that I kick up into a handstand with ease and days where I feel like I’ve got cement blocks on my feet. Moments when my teacher asks me to hold Warrior 2 for over 10 breathes, and I feel like I can go on forever- or on the flipside, wonder how on earth I am ever going to walk again from the burning sensation in my thigh. Even on my meditation cushion- I sometimes go way past when the chime dings, and there are days when I peek to see when the time is up because I can’t sit still for one more minute.
As we become mindful of our reactions in our practice, we notice how it correlates to life outside the studio. There are days that I’ll be in class and find focus in a balancing pose, close my eyes and feel as if I could stand in stillness for hours; then there are still the rare times when judgment creeps in after wobbling back and forth- when I convince myself I’m setting a bad example for my students. If I look back at my morning, maybe I’d had an argument with my teenager, and I’m convinced I acted like a bad parent- see where this is going?
The difference between what happens immediately after either judgment? I now recognize it and turn it around to a positive statement. “I love when my students experience me as a student- they get to see that even after 15 years of practice, nothing is ever perfect.” “I know that I’m an awesome mom, and one misplaced comment doesn’t put me in the running for worst mom of the year.”
Just as we develop flexibility in the body, we’re able to do the same in the mind. Our old stories and habits don’t seem relevant anymore; the beliefs we held about ourselves and the world around us seem out of date and restricting.
So we learn new poses, and we rewrite our stories. We celebrate our progress with an appreciation for newfound S P A C E where the magic happens. That space can be an extra inch in your Triangle pose or more patience to deal with your best friend, who constantly complains about her life when it actually resembles a Cinderella tale.
When we learn to be present on the mat, we learn to be present off the mat. when we build strength in our body, we develop strength in our mind, our character, and the way in which we create the world we live in.
I’m thinking there couldn’t be a better reason to start a yoga practice……