My relationship with yoga used to be a lot like dating. I would try different types of yoga and seek out new locations, never really committing to a full practice or studio. When I first came to the mat I was depressed, lonely and in a career I hated. Staying through an entire class was an uphill battle. My out-of-shape, overweight, toxin-filled body was begging to quit. I often left class halfway through because the notion of staying was torture.
As painful as it seemed, something always brought me back to the mat. For the past eight years, my yoga practice has been a calming constant. Leaving a corporate job, drug addictions, drama-filled romances and self-hate behind me, yoga was my one constant companion.
Even though I stuck with yoga through those transitions, I never really felt connected to my practice. I showed up because it was a gentle release from my endurance training — running and biking were more my thing. It wasn't until I left my last relationship and put myself on a one-year dating detox that I decided to change my priorities. Instead of focusing on trying to get a man to fall in love with me, I would spend my time falling in love with myself.
This dedication to myself led me to a year-long study of following my heart, listening to my body, and finally, understanding the true transformational benefits of yoga. By focusing on self-love, compassion and respect, my practice became rich and filled with purpose.
Slowly and steadily, I started to disengage from my fear-based voice and tap into my authentic self. The one that knows everything is in its right order, the inner nudge that says, "I belong" and "Everything is perfect as it is."
It wasn't just my yoga practice that cracked me open though, it was a key instructor that opened my heart to the transformational power of practicing with intention. Jamie Dresselhaus, at Hot Yoga for Life, not only changed my relationship with yoga, but she ultimately saved my life. The best teachers show us who we really are by holding up emotional mirrors. Jamie accomplishes exactly that by guiding her students gently through their resistance, helping them to break down the barriers that are keeping them from being present and whole.
My yoga teacher has shown me how to release the struggle and to stop trying so hard. Yoga has shown me that our lives are supposed to be joyful, fun and rich. The resistance we feel comes from fear; and through a daily dedication to my yoga I have released the emotional blocks and resistance that stopped me from releasing the fear in my life.
Today I'm a dedicated yogi who is addiction free, healthy, happy and in love with life. Of course I still have down days, but when I'm feeling low, I return to one of the lessons I learned from my favorite yoga instructor and I quickly return to peace. Here are some of the techniques I learned to help restore balance and calm in my life.
Surrender to get back to me.
The idea of "surrendering" tends to get a bad rap these days. Connotations of giving up or throwing in the towel come to mind for many, but the type of surrender I'm talking about requires nothing more than being fully present and accepting 100% of where you are in your life. In yoga, we're challenged to pull deep into the moment and fully surrender to what is, not what we want think should be. This means that when you're feeling out of alignment, if you relax, release and surrender, the moment will pass and peace will prevail.
There is beauty in breakdown.
Our greatest struggles can be the catalyst to our life’s biggest successes. We have an opportunity to see our breakdowns as a rebuilding, regrouping and refocusing time. Whatever situation you're currently in, recognize that your soul is growing and you're being groomed for your future. Hang in there, because it will get better.
We are all in this crazy adventure together.
At the end of class my yoga instructor often reminds us to relax and enjoy the ride, that “we are all in this crazy adventure together." This thought always brings a smile to my face, because no matter what I'm going through, it helps me know that I'm not alone — and neither are you. We're stronger when we lean on one another and recognize that we're all one. The journey of life is a choice, and we can choose to ride the waves of uncertainty with grace and ease. When we celebrate our differences and accept our true essence, life becomes a joyous ride.
Turn your judgments into curiosity.
Looking outside of ourselves for answers often results in uncertainty and judgment. When we look to others we sometimes fall into the trap of comparison. My yoga practice has taught me to love myself for my uniqueness, and to accept every part of the other students around me. If a judgment comes up, whether it's about my own body’s limitations, or those of another person, I ardently seek to turn it into curiosity. To ask questions, to dig deeper into the situation. This process can help remove the barriers that keep us from being our true selves.
What do you think? Have you had a powerful teacher or moment with yoga that changed your life? Leave your comments below or tweet your thoughts to @ShannonLKaiser.