Now, I know I’m likely to be preaching to the converted, but can you remember how yoga first felt to you?
Well, it’s only been a matter of months since I began practicing yoga consistently, consciously and mindfully. Over the years I have practiced sporadically – only elements of yoga – the odd downward dog here and there with some fleeting moments of meditation. However, I was always looking for something without realizing yoga was it. Not realizing Yoga was what my “whole body” needed, I dismissed it and continued with only my gym membership in sight. Maybe I just wasn’t at the right place on my journey at that moment in time.
Fast forward seven or eight years, and here I am having discovered it all over again properly – a new yogi. My mat on my back, a smile on my face, attempting to leave my ego at the studio door. The benefits of yoga? We could talk all day, but here are five things I am grateful for.
I’ve practiced mindfulness way before yoga, with varying degrees of success – good days and bad days. Yoga practice is now the driving force for my new mindfulness. It’s left an imprint, a memory of being focused, of being present. Whenever I am having a tough day, or am worried about something, I cast my mind back to my mat practice and I am back in the moment whether on the mat or not. Learning how to breathe and make my breath work for me has helped me remain centered and grounded in our busy modern world. With a hyperactive mind like mine, believe me, this has been a real blessing.
I’m talking real authentic kindness, with no judgement and an open heart – kindness that you feel not just think. Kindness to all, those who have done you wrong, and those whom you do not know yet. When I practice with a group of people, many of whom I do not know, it reminds me we are all fundamentally the same and all have the same basic wants and needs. We all have our personal struggles, and the best thing we have to offer each other is kindness. When I think of kindness I often think of this quote by the Dalai Lama: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
3. Ego. Or more specifically lack of
Yoga is the exact opposite of what I used to think any physical practice was about. No judgement from you towards yourself or others and no judgment from others towards you.
P.E. at my school was mainly a time for ridicule, humiliation and repeated knocks to an already fragile teenage confidence. So, to find a practice such as yoga, where a distinct lack of ego is a prerequisite, is a blessing. I still like to challenge my body and do so on a regular basis, however without ego. And, though losing ego is often difficult at times, it is a joy to practice. Stepping onto my mat gives me full permission to depart from my ego, and if I can then attempt to carry this through to my life off the mat, then all the better.
As you well know, we live in a society where everything is fast; in an instant we are always aware of the time, the clock ticking. Yoga has allowed me to take off my watch; I no longer wear it. Yes, of course I look at the time and I am still punctual (mostly!), but only when I need to be. Now, I give myself permission to smell the roses as I walk through life, not just run from A to B.
My body will only flex, move, bend, expand as much as my breath will allow, and for that I am grateful and patient. I now notice the small adjustments to my asanas with each practice and follow my body as it expands slowly and wisely. Yoga has taught me to enjoy the journey and watch things unfold in real time.
We are our best friend, and if we cannot love ourselves, how can we expect to give and receive real love in our everyday lives? As human beings we need to set a precedent for how we wish to be treated by leading by example. How we care for ourselves should reflect how we wish others to also care for us.
Self-love is about acceptance. I think learning to accept ourselves as we are is often a lifelong journey, however yoga has helped me begin to accept my body for the wonder that it is and to be grateful for how it serves me and what it can do (and respect it for what it cannot do yet). Yoga has helped me appreciate my body beyond its aesthetics. When we practice, we listen to our bodies and minds and attempt to show them kindness and patience. What can be more caring than that, listening and giving yourself what you need?
Now, of course yoga is only a part of life, and then it’s only if you choose it to be. It’s not a miracle cure for all ills, but I truly believe it has the potential to be a catalyst for personal change and a positive shift in your life if you want it to be. Here’s to many more enjoyable yogi years of learning. What does your practice do for you?