The Side Effects of Yoga

Written by Lisa Horvath

I came to yoga the same way a lot of others do; I was drawn to the physical practice. I would sweat, stretch and twist. Then, when 90 minutes was up, it was as if I was rolling the experience up right along with my mat, to be tucked away until the next time I came to class. Or so I thought.

I had been practicing a few months when ‘magic’ began happening.

I started the shower and began brushing my teeth at the same time. Very quietly a voice inside me gently nudged me to turn off the shower until I was ready. Not much of a revelation but suddenly I was conscious of an instilled habit. Could this be the beginning of mindfulness? We all have to start somewhere.

I walked into my local coffee shop at the same time as someone else. Instead of feeling competitive to get to the counter first, I let him go in front of me. Rest assured my day was not negatively affected by getting my latte one minute later than I would have. Maybe this was the first inkling of patience?

At work, the mood was frantic, the emails plentiful, the meetings numerous. I felt a surge of stress lifting me up and carrying me away. I took a moment to close my eyes, catch my breath. I even managed to stand up and take a simple forward fold at my desk. I already felt more centered, connected and capable of dealing with the chaos. Awareness and the ability to come back to the present moment, who was this person?

I made a mistake, I got into a fight with a friend and was feeling utterly overwhelmed. But instead of berating and silently calling myself names, I listened. I heard what was bothering me, why I had reacted the way I had and didn’t judge myself with the fierceness that I’m so prone to do. Kindness was at play in my own heart.

We often assume that what we will get from yoga is toned arms, stretchy hamstrings and the ability to stand on our heads. But the practice is so much greater than the physical. I did not set out with the intention of becoming more mindful, patient, aware or kind. But yoga found a way to give me these tools and so many more. As my practice has evolved so have the side effects and I couldn’t be more grateful. Hmm, gratefulness. I learned that on my mat too.

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