I took my first yoga class in college. My mom and I signed up for a morning class with a spunky (but tough) teacher who lived in Pacifica, CA and had written a yoga book with her husband. She had studied with B. K. S. Iyengar himself and told us long stories about her trips to India.
The one thing I remember strongly about that first class was being surprised at how challenging yoga can be – and not just on a physical level, but on a mental level as well.
Having struggled for many years with overthinking and a heavy mind, yoga was a practice that I could come back to again and again in which I could confront those things with more presence. Yoga class started to feel like an oasis that I could escape to so I could finally surrender.
Yoga has taught me many things, but there are a few that stand out. I think what keeps me coming back to the mat again and again is that feeling of connection I experience with my body after so many years of not treating it well – in physical and mental ways. I realize now after some self-reflection that how we think about our bodies – including how they look, feel and compare to others – is such a huge piece of the physical health pie. Our bodies respond at a cellular level to what we say and what we think. Yoga has taught me how to love my body as it IS after years of wishing it was different. It has helped me immensely in my journey to self-acceptance.
Here are some other reflections on the beauty and endless lessons of yoga:
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We have all heard this phrase. In looking up the actual definition, I found this: “The ability to wait for something without frustration is a useful skill and a good aspect of one’s personality.”
If something can help us practice patience, it’s yoga. Patience for our bodies to find their way into a pose. Patience with our minds to slow down and cease the addiction to thinking and manipulating. Patience with ourselves when we’re not sure the next step to take in our lives.
Personally for me, patience is something I work on daily. I am constantly surrendering my attachment to timing and how and when things show up for me. I have to remind myself of all the factors that may be involved in something I want.
Yoga is a vacation for that monkey mind. It grounds our energy and allows us to connect physically so we can take the attention off of our thoughts.
Yoga gives us permission to slow down – something many of us were not taught. Our addiction to accomplishment and the next shiny object is what creates our belief that if we slow down, we will miss something. Nonsense. When we slow down and create patience, that is when we find what we seek.
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In every yoga class I take, there are people of all body types, ages, physical experiences and physical traumas. Everyone looks slightly different in each pose. Everyone’s body finds its way to benefit because yoga is not exclusive. It’s inclusive and limitless. Sometimes people stay seated to do a pose while others may use the wall for support. It is all about finding what works so that the pose can serve us.
I have begun to look at life this way and throw out my conditioning of the past. It’s so easy to get stuck in our tunnel vision about how we think our lives should look or how they should feel based on what others are doing or our old programming.
Everyone’s path will look different – and that is what makes life beautiful and interesting.
I used to tie myself in a knot comparing myself to others. I used to believe that conformity would equal security. I used to think that I had to be like everyone else.
Yoga has taught me about the endless discoveries of our precious time here on Earth. It has allowed me to silently say to myself, “I’m gonna try that no matter what the outcome.”
It is when we accept that our lives will never look like another’s that we become liberated. We find our own rhythm, our own dance, our own way. We get to invest in our own version of happiness, love, truth, wisdom, joy, healing, relationships and self-expression.
What a beautiful gift to be unique – and to be content in that uniqueness.
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There is a pose in yoga called Virabhadrasana II (or Warrior 2 pose).
The feet are placed about 3 to 3 1/2 feet apart, the front knee is bent while the back leg remains straight and the arms are extended from the body front and back, creating the illusion of a long spear.
While in this pose during a morning class, I happened to look back as the teacher adjusted someone and I saw a magnificent sight. Being in the front row gave me a cool vantage point to experience everyone collectively in Warrior 2 pose, looking like a spiritual army about to strike. It gave me chills because I could feel the strength, perseverance and power of all those souls.
I get that in our own ways, we are all warriors. We are all survivors. We all have something to offer up and share. We all hide the best parts of ourselves because maybe we think they aren’t good enough. We all hurt. We all have things that we wish we could have done better. We all have moments we wish we could experience again.
Remembering that we are all warriors (even when we don’t feel like it) honors our journey and our experiences. It conjures up the strength we all possess and the internal resources that are always there for us.
We are all warriors because we have to be. We are all warriors because life requires that of us. We are all warriors in our own story – bumping into other warriors who we may learn from.
And of all yoga has taught me, I will close with this: yoga has taught me to love myself again. To listen to myself. To be patient with myself. To honor myself. To slow down and to show up.
Yoga made me realize the things we think are outside of ourselves are actually always there waiting to be discovered in our own way.
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