I’ve been practicing yoga since High School. Loved it so much I got my certification and started teaching. I started off doing it because of soccer injuries and migraines. Over the years, my busted ankle started to heal, and I can’t remember the last time I had a migraine. But that’s not what keeps me coming back to my mat day after day.
I truly could talk about this subject forever but somehow I’ve narrowed down a list of 5 things that I’ve learned from yoga that make a difference in my day-to-day life.
1. Being still is hard but possible.
I don’t know about you but my lil’ brain is so overstimulated minute by minute. I can’t just sit at a red light anymore, I have to respond to texts and check email and Facebook. When I’m witnessing a majestic sunset, I have to take a picture, slightly edit it then post on Instagram. Then I’m suppose to come to my yoga mat and just lay there? I got stuff to do! Immediately my brain starts running through my To Do List.
Being still is so hard, but I’ve learned that it is possible. With practice. I’m not saying I get on my mat and try to empty my mind. I’m just realizing the importance of focusing on what is directly in front of me, being ok with the restlessness that always comes, feeling what I feel and just be patient with it. Breathe through the waiting. Breathe through the anxiety. And not check out mentally to ignore what I’m dealing with. Which leads me to the next one.
2. Practice daily.
I’m always surprised at the fact that no matter how awesome my yoga session was the day before, I feel like I have to start at level 1 at the beginning of each new class. My hips got tight again, my hamstrings shrunk and my shoulders started slouching back over. I can’t expect to rock it out, get it taken care of then check out for a week. It is a daily practice to learn how to be still. It takes work to undo my unhealthy habits.
Often what comes to mind for me is not being anxious. I feel like I’m all good, worked through that, then an hour later I’m stressing about it again. It is a daily, sometimes moment by moment practice to rest in the Lord’s grace and love, and to trust it to get me through stressful times.
3. Comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Ahhhh. This one is a doosey. I love yoga dearly, but we gotta be honest, some, actually most, of the postures are downright weird. And uncomfortable. When I get into one of those postures, where does my brain go? What am I thinking about? I often find that I start thinking of my to do list (things to make me busy and not be still) or I start thinking about what my next meal will be.
Interestingly when I’m in an argument with Andrew, or forced to wait for something unwillingly, or looping about what she said/he said… I’m doing the same thing. I’m thinking about anywhere I can be but there. Or I’m thinking of fried chicken. Yoga is such a microcosm of what is happening in our life “beyond the mat.” If it shows up in this space, it is for sure playing out in our day-to-day. Which leads me to the next one!
4. Either stagnant or grow.
Often times, when in an uncomfortable posture, if I manage to stay in it, I find myself just hanging back. Not really going all the way with it. It takes focus and commitment to be in a hard place, acknowledge that it’s hard, take a deep breath, and choose to go all in. In many areas of my life, I’ve noticed the problem, talked alllll about it, but I don’t quite make the step to fix it.
Hanging around on the edge is comfortable, it’s safe, it doesn’t hurt, it’s stagnant. It takes guts to dive in that cold water. It takes courage to be vulnerable with people who have hurt you. It takes work to change a detrimental habit. But when you come through to the other side, it’s usually worth the discomfort getting there.
5. Listen to your body’s signals.
When moving into a hip stretch with cold muscles it can be downright painful to go too far. But if that girl next to me looks like the cover of Yoga Journal in her pose, then by golly I’ve got to push through the pain and go for it. Who cares if a walk with a limp for a week. I DID it. Better than her!!
It’s awful, I know, but it takes a whole lot of self-love to acknowledge where my body is at, accept its limitations and patiently breathe through it. In order to listen to my body’s signals, I have to be okay with pulling back even though the class has moved on. I have to stop comparing myself to others. Or I have to know when I’m good to move further, then have the discipline and drive to go for it. It’s a balance and unfortunately, for me, this changes day by day, depending on what I’m emotionally working through, what I ate the night before or how Andrew and I are doing. These things really do affect our day-to-day life and they for sure affect our physical bodies. It takes work for me to slow dow, assess the situation and proceed with awareness.
Weaving its way though all of these is the all important need to breathe. When to slow down, when to push past laziness. Sitting still in discomfort, all of this would not be possible without calm, slow breaths. Next time you are in a difficult situation, notice your breath. Does is speed up? Feel like it’s stuck in your throat? These are natural reactions to stress. Slowing down your breath can help you be patient in the stillness. It calms down your brain. It helps you focus on what is in front of you instead of checking out.
I have been in the midst of an argument before and I realized I was holding my breath. When I slowed down to breathe, I was able to bring the confrontation into perspective, work through my feelings then communicate them with love. Do I do this all the time? Heck no. But when I do, I notice a direct difference in the outcome.
Doing fancy poses on your mat is dandy. I love a good work out with someone talking gently to me as much as the next person. But what has been truly transformational for me is how I’ve allowed my practice grow beyond a 7×3 foot space.