Yoga has been making me stronger, calmer, more content, and more in tune with myself for the past five years. It has made me a better human being and continues to do so every time I take a deep breath in... and a slow breath out...
Here's a few prime ahas that I hope will help you on your own journey on your mat and beyond:
Enjoy the journey.
I’ve been an athlete my entire life — a runner in many different forms. When I first came to yoga, I thought I was an expert in self-awareness, but boy was I wrong. I was wound up in a bunch of knots that I had previously learned to numb. I was used to being good at what I did, so when I first rolled out a mat it was hard to be a beginner. Since then, I’ve watched my hamstrings and hips unwind. I get asked if I’m taller every week because I’ve strengthened my core and improved my posture. As I continue to practice, I not only run better, but I also ski better, surf better, dance better, and feel better!
Breathe through the uncomfortable.
Yogic breathing is the most impactful skill I’ve learned. I’m someone who is naturally impatient and a bit anxious. Learning to manage my breath while challenged on my mat now helps me manage all aspects of my life, from the last mile of my run to sitting in rush hour traffic. It certainly doesn’t make the uncomfortable situations in life go away, but it helps me to handle them more easefully.
Yoga has taught me to be kind to myself. I admit I'm guilty of negative self talk. When I truly imagine saying those things to another person I am horrified! So, why should I be directing those negative thoughts towards myself? These days I choose to love all the things my mind and body are capable of. You may have heard that in order to love another, you first must love yourself. True that. When we're kind to ourselves, we're able to be more compassionate towards others.
You have to be aware of yourself to be able to love yourself. Notice what you like about yourself, but don’t be afraid to pay attention to the darker corners of your mind and body, too. After all, we all have those trying, explicit moments in rush hour traffic. Awareness of the self is the first step in commencing change and yoga teaches us to be with the self. Louis C.K. once said, “Self-love is a good thing, but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.'”
Check your ego.
Often times it’s our ego that’s being the asshole. We have these preconceived notions of who we need to be, how we need to dress, speak, act, and exist to compete and survive in this world. It also infects us with fear of failure if we can’t compete. Yoga isn’t intended to promote competition or comparison. Instead, yoga has given me space to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on my overarching competitive nature (thanks to sports). It has helped me open my eyes to the fact that in many contexts, there is no competition, only my ego and its folly. Keeping my ego in check allows me to be a beginner, to try new things, and realize it isn’t always about being the best. Instead, it is about getting better.
So, the next time you’re contorted on your mat or thwarted in traffic: pause, notice, smile at yourself, your reaction, and start over — Hit Reset. Choose a more easeful approach. The world needs your leadership.