When I first began practicing yoga ten years ago, I was a listless college student with limited body awareness and zero athletic ability. Toward the beginning of my journey a teacher said, "You want all the benefits of the practice, but you don't want to do the work to get there," which devastated me but also prompted me to dig deep and start to "do the work."
Through yoga we discover a deep inner strength paired with the knowledge that we can accomplish anything, and that power extends to all areas of our lives. Here are a few of the lessons yoga will teach you:
1) The words "I can't" literally do not exist.
Last week a friend told me about transitioning to a raw diet. Immediately I said, "I could never do that," assuming I don't possess the kitchen skills or knowledge possible. The next morning I woke up and decided to hit the farmer's market armed with a handful of raw recipes. After an incredible time in the kitchen, some amazing dishes (and a few not so successful!), I came to realize the words "I can't" literally do not exist. "I can't" is a figment of our imagination and a bragging of our inability to see possibility. Yoga will teach you that you CAN and you WILL - but only if you're willing to try!
2) You'll turn off the 24/7 news cycle.
As yogis I believe it is important to stay active and involved in our communities, putting our votes to action, and taking a stand for change. It is also important to step away from the drama and resist becoming enraptured in the current climate of fear. As Max Strom and Jack Kornfield teach, your practice will guide you to turn off the news and turn on Mozart. If a tremendous event takes place, you'll hear about it. In the meantime, get informed, step back on your mat, and step away from the frenzy. Your ability to hold a steady space will inspire others to move into activism with compassion, steadiness, and positivity.
3) Eating a whole food diet (mostly) free of alcohol and caffeine actually does sound great!
I like a wonderful glass of wine like everyone, and I am an advocate of everything in moderation. But, when I look at my life today versus five years ago, I would never have guessed that my diet would consist of whole foods, free of refined sugar. There is no one in this world who loves a piece of cake more than I do. I am a self-confessed sugar addict. The community of yoga allowed a light to shine on a healthier path revealing alternatives like raw desserts, gluten free cupcakes, and coconut ice-cream, which are now a great source of joy. Yoga will teach you take care of yourself from the inside out.
4) It's easier to take the high road.
When we are caught in a disagreement and have the urge to prove ourselves right, the situation frequently devolves into a battle of egos. Instinctually, everyone wants to be right, but yoga will teach you that little needs to be said, because truth always prevails. It's almost always easier to take the high road, because you conserve energy, you allow the other person an opportunity to experience their own path, and you hold a space that is positive, supportive, and open minded, allowing the situation to be resolved down the road in a state of peace and unity. Yoga will teach you that your door is always open even if your heart has to step aside once in a while.
5) Happiness can be found in every moment, even at the most challenging times.
A student recently needed to undergo a biopsy. She was scared and filled with anxiety. As she sat in the doctor's office waiting for the procedure, she was suddenly overcome with a feeling of security and even happiness! She said, "In that moment, I realized I was doing something positive to take care of myself. I didn't have to have this procedure if I didn't want to - we could wait. But I made the choice to show up for myself and my body. Even though I was terrified, I found happiness in knowing I was taking care of me, and all the fear just slipped away." After finding this state of contentment, she was ushered in for her biopsy. To her surprise the doctor told her there was nothing he could remove. She spent the last year dedicated to her yoga practice and revolutionizing her diet, and there was no longer any need for the procedure. This was an unexpected turn of events, and she walked away grateful for the experience, knowing it challenge her to put her practice into action.