Okay, I promise this will be the last yoga post for awhile. I just can’t help it. My life has changed a lot lately, and yoga has healed, calmed and carried me through it all. After two years of practice, it’s clear to me that yoga alleviates much of the suffering and anxiety we impose on ourselves.
Yoga is a lifelong practice, and its benefits extend beyond the body. One of my yoga instructors describes it perfectly: “To learn to control the body, we learn to control the breath. When we learn to control the breath, we learn to control the mind.” Yoga does improve fitness, but awareness, self-control and inner calm are the real rewards.
Recently, I’ve thought a lot about how the lessons I learn in yoga extend beyond my practice. These ideas are helpful when applied to exercise, but enlightening when applied to life.
1. When we breathe, we are stronger than we think.
Yoga teaches us to “connect movement with breath,” using focus and control to strengthen our bodies. It works in real life, too. When I’m in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I take a deep breath. When I get frustrated with others, I breathe. Breathing helps calm us, and when we’re calm, we make better choices.
2. You are the only one who knows what feels right for you.
Instructors give invaluable corrections and encouragement, but you’re the only one who can tell if something hurts. Recently I faced several big life decisions, and I often found myself asking others what they would do. I need to remember that although guidance is important, I alone can know what’s best for me.
3. Rest helps our bodies feel the full benefit of our practice.
At the end of each yoga class, we rest in corpse pose, flat on the ground. I leave every time feeling refreshed and strengthened. Rest is important, for bodies and minds. Recent research found that sleep is when our minds clean up, categorizing what we’ve learned and taking out the garbage (literally). Getting adequate rest improves productivity and happiness.
4. Give 80%.
There are times when a burst of energy is helpful – holding a pose for just 5 more seconds – but if you force your body past where it wants to go, you’ll hurt yourself. How many times have we been asked to give 110%? Don’t do that – at least not for very long. Balance your priorities, and don’t forget to rest.
5. Wherever you are today in your practice is perfect for you.
Everyone moves at a different pace, so comparing yourself to other yogis is absurd. In life it’s the same. We’re all different people, with different pasts, different skills and different goals. You can only ever be your best.
Namaste is a traditional yogi benediction that loosely means “I honor the light in you that also exists in me.” It acknowledges that though we are diverse, we all share the same world, with the same desires and worries, breathing the same air, drinking the same water. Our actions and emotions affect those around us. Though we are separate, we are one.
Thanks for reading. Namaste.