Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my yoga practice helps me grow in my day to day life. I am always raving about how yoga is life changing, but I don’t do a great job of identifying exactly how. In a lot of ways, it’s something you have to experience to really understand, but there are many lessons learned and practiced on your mat that clearly translate into daily life. These four in particular have impacted me strongly lately, so I wanted to share them all with you. <3
1. Return to your breath. Yoga practice is all about breath. During practice, you return to the breath to cultivate a sense of calm even when your body is working hard. No matter the situation, focusing on my breath brings the same sort of calm to my mind and body. I’ve written before about how this has helped me cope with my anxiety disorder, but it has even broader applications. Whether it’s managing a hectic day, or something much more stressful the ability to quickly tune out the chaos by focusing on even a single breath is an incredible tool to clear your mind and calm the storm.
2. The power of stillness. We live in a society that is always on the go. Rarely, if ever, do we take time to just be. Like most people, I am always doing: moving and fidgeting and thinking and worrying and planning. When I first started yoga I rebelled against the stillness. I fidget constantly in life (just ask John), and I fidgeted constantly in poses. Shifting my gaze, shifting my weight, making millions of micro adjustments while my mind ran wild with distraction.
The yin classes that I take once a week (where poses are held for 5 minutes each) really push me in this area, and I have seen so much improvement in my ability to calm my body and my mind and turn inward. Now I’ve come to relish those moments of complete stillness and quiet contemplation that come in my practice. Do I still have days where it just doesn’t come easily? Of course. But I’ve learned that amazing things can come from within if I just take the time to slow down and listen.
3. Honor your body. This has become my mantra recently. I used to be embarrassed of how “new agey” it sounds, but now I just embrace it. Your body is your home, it’s the only one you’ll ever have. So don’t fight it or force it or abuse it. Mentally or physically. Learn to love it and respect it. Honor it by respecting its boundaries and edges in yoga (not forcing poses), in other areas of fitness (rest days, knowing when to stop), and in life (eating, sleeping, speeding up and slowing down as needed).
4. Patience and acceptance. Progress in the physical postures is slow, at least for me. There are days when I am incredibly frustrated with myself and with my body for not being “better.” It is humbling to try difficult postures, and it tests my patience when my flexibility improves so slowly that it feels non-existence. I have to work hard, very hard, to embrace yoga’s message of accepting where you are in the present. The fact that it’s hard is exactly why I need it.
In reality, progress in yoga is not about the physical postures, it’s about the internal journey. It doesn’t matter how deep your backbend is or how long you can hold an arm balance. True progress comes from tuning into your body and connecting with yourself on a deeper level. Letting go of ego and the need to look like a yoga model requires patience and acceptance.
Questions: Yogis, do you agree with this list? What other life lessons do you take from your practice? Non-yogis, how does your passion translate into daily life?