How Yoga Strengthens Me When I Fall Short

There are days when I feel like I’m riding a moving walkway. I love walking on those because it makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere without a ton of effort. On these days, everything is running smoothly; everyone is happy, and I’m feeling surprisingly productive. There's energy, focus, and a profound feeling of worthiness. My default state, if you will.

Then there are days when I feel stuck. Suddenly I’m trudging up the down escalator, and I just can’t seem to find my way. To add to the frustration and confusion, I also seem to be carrying everyone else’s luggage with me. These bags are heavy; they're filled with the feelings, needs, and opinions of others, and often they belong to people I don’t even know. Funny, I don’t remember picking these bags up…

Admittedly, some of these down days can be caused by hormonal changes or a specific event, but more often than not this downward spiral begins with a thought. One random negative thought. How dare those little demons creep inside my brain and take up space?

They go something like...

“Everyone else’s happiness depends on you.”

“Put on a smile and don’t ask for help. It’s weak.”

“Your needs come second.”

That’s when I get out my yoga mat. For me, yoga serves as a large eraser, breezing over the chalkboard of my crazy mind and wiping out all the negative thoughts I’ve scribbled there. I can depend on yoga to bring me to a place of non-judgement as I allow myself to focus on deep breathing, and moving meditation. The breath keeps me present, while the postures bring forth confidence, fortitude and equanimity.

I surrender to a graceful sun salutation, revel in a challenging warrior sequence, and reflect in a calming forward fold. There are balancing challenges, lower back struggles, and weaker arms than yesterday, yet nothing stops me. I’ve already unrolled my mat, so I’ve already succeeded; all in an old pair of yoga pants and a sweaty headband.

I've gotten to know myself better in this short time, and I’m enjoying my company. I've even silently laughed at my own joke a few times while attempting a fancy back bend. Breath by breath, the negative thoughts melt away. The chalkboard in my mind has been erased and replaced with things like:

“You are enough, and therefore deserve to be happy.”

“It’s OK to be honest with your feelings.”

“You're not responsible for someone else’s baggage left unattended.”

Yoga helps me create space for myself that I wouldn’t know how to do on my own. This space gives me the clarity to set appropriate boundaries and get honest about what I really want. I’ve learned through my practice that my emotional best may change by the day — or even the hour — and that’s OK.

Because when I fall short, I'm strong enough to ask for help. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find myself trudging up that escalator again, but for today, everything is OK as is.

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