There’s so much I’ve learned from yoga. I took my first yoga class when I was a freshman in college. I remember feeling antsy, frustrated and even a little bit bored. Those 60 minutes seemed like some of the longest of my life. It was painful and I deemed myself a non-yogi due to inflexibility and lack of concentration.
Fast forward 3.5 years when I started my first clinical experience in the mental health field. I found myself craving an opportunity to SLOW DOWN and find a way to process all of the information I was taking in. I feel eternally grateful to LOVE my job and my work. I love my clients and will endlessly pour all of me into everything I do. That being said, some work days can feel really heavy and finding my own ways to practice self care, to separate my work/school life from my personal world was, and is, crucial.
Yoga’s not for everyone. I totally hear ya.
I’ve learned a lot from my 2 years of practice and I’m here to share my experience so far.
- Patience – I really like to do well, and do well quickly. When I started practicing yoga, I really wanted to be uber flexible, be fit & take picturesque Insta photos bending my body into all kinds of shapes with ease + grace. Let’s just say, that was not my reality. Over time, I’ve watched my body stretch and grow, not only physically but mentally. I’ve watched how I approach my practice change. I’ve learned to accept where my body is and trust that one day I will reach my goals.
- Each practice will be different and that’s okay. Every day is different. – Not every practice is going to feel amazing just like every day is not going to be full of sunshine + rainbows. I’ve learned to accept the days where I just can’t push any harder or my body just won’t bend the same way it did before. I’ve learned to become more agile in my body and understand that my practice isn’t really about the physical part. I’ve come to expect highs and lows, in yoga class, and in life. Having more realistic expectations has helped me to handle rough patches with more ease and lightness.
- I’m not perfect AND I can still love myself. – Newsflash, I’m not perfect. I can pick out in a mirror several things I don’t like about my body, just like pretty much everyone else I know. Here’s the thing, my imperfections don’t define me. They don’t guide my life and I don’t spend my days engulfed in my imperfections (or at least, not most days). Through yoga, I’ve learned to appreciate my body for so much more than what it looks like. I appreciate the strength of my body, the reliability. I’ve learned to trust myself and value my imperfections as they make me, me.
- “Route down to rise up.” – Have you ever heard a yoga teacher say this? The first time I heard it I can remember thinking “wtf does that even mean?!” Now, I get it. In order to grow to my full potential, to reach for more, it helps to feel grounded. Even if things are a bit shaky on the outside, I can feel confident in who I am at my routes, in my core being.
- I really don’t have to kill myself with exercise for it to “count.” – I used to feel that if I wasn’t in pain or really, really struggling during my workouts, it didn’t count. If I wasn’t waddling or aching in pain the next day, I didn’t work hard enough. If I didn’t work out for X number of minutes, I wouldn’t feel the lightness and calm I craved after a workout. Yoga has taught me quite the opposite. I have learned to tune into my body, to move in a way that feels good and have that be enough. I have noticed on classes where I don’t push my body quite as hard, I still come out feeling lighter and more in tune. It counts.
- Follow your intuition. – I like to think I am a pretty intuitive person, meaning, I can follow my gut instincts and they often lead me in the right direction. It wasn’t until yoga where I took time to slow down, that I really learned to listen to my body, to my mind, to myself. I’ve taken so much strength and courage from my practice out into the world. It has helped me to lead my life with grace, humility and a softness I hadn’t experienced before.
I’m not perfect and I know I never will be. Practicing yoga has helped me to let go of what is heavy, learn from my mistakes and move forward. It has helped me let my guard down and see myself for who I really am. Yoga has allowed me to open up when all I want to do is close into a tiny ball. These lessons have come with a lot of time, practice and reflection. I now value my practice so much, without much attachment to what the actual physical aspect looks like.
I know yoga isn’t the solution for everyone. Sending love to all my yogi & non yogi friends alike. What can you do in your life that helps you turn inward, that brings out who you really are, flaws & all?