Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about life and the decisions we’ve made and I came to the realization that practicing and teaching yoga are two of the best choices I’ve ever made.
We’ve all heard of the many benefits of yoga: improved coordination, stronger bones, better posture and balance, stress reduction, body-mind connection, overall strength, and flexibility.
While I’ve experienced those amazing benefits over the years since I first stepped on a yoga mat, my practice has also taught me three important life lessons that go far beyond the physical:
1. Greater awareness
It’s been said that yoga works its way into your life from the outside in. It starts as a physical practice with more emphasis on breathing than most exercise routines and involves a period of rest and meditation at the end — one that can sometimes feel tedious to a new yoga practitioner! However, after a few days, weeks or months of regular practice, all of a sudden the breath comes easier and the Savasana at the end becomes an actual relaxation period where you can feel the effects of the class resonate throughout your entire body.
Finding this place within myself during my yoga practice helped me expand into the poses and come to a greater awareness of my reactions to life both on and off the mat. For example, I never considered myself to be a perfectionist until I realized I simply wouldn’t try a pose if I couldn’t do it perfectly. Off the mat, I noticed that I wouldn’t try new things unless I had thoroughly researched what I was getting into.
Now, I try to approach all matters in life with compassionate awareness and bring that into my teaching.
I speak about self-compassion a lot in my classes, because it took me a while to fully understand that having compassion for myself was just as important as having compassion for others. Being mindful of my reactions to the poses and kind to myself as I learned my limitations went hand in hand with being mindful that others around me had their own limits, fears and concerns. I now embrace my limitations and breathe life into the areas of my body and my psyche where fear tries to hide.
3. Letting go
Being able to tune into my breath, move with my breath, and observe my reactions with compassionate awareness has also helped me to let go. Let go of the fear I had in certain poses and just be playful and explore. Let go of the need for control and just go with the flow. Let go of the need for perfection to be able to say both on and off the mat, “I don’t know.” In letting go, I have found the freedom to learn, grow and simply be.
To say yoga has changed my life is an understatement. I thank the universe every day for introducing me to this wonderful practice and for letting me share it with others. I hope many of you have found something transformative in your body, mind and heart along your yoga journey!