Yoga Challenge Day 10: Life Lessons from Yoga
The yoga challenge continues. This week I’ve been doing more restorative classes. Over the weekend I ramped it up, but I haven’t been sleeping, so I’ve been doing restorative. Tonight, I hope to add another challenging class, but we’ll see how I feel when I get to my mat after work. In my Morning Pages this morning, I was writing about some challenges I have in my life right now, and I realized that all of the affirmations and advice I am giving myself are all things I learned first in yoga.
When I first started practicing yoga in 2000, I was a very different person. Well, I was probably the same person, but I had a very different approach to life. People laugh when I say I WAS Type A because they see me now as very Type A. But, I can assure you my Type A today is more of an A- instead of the A+++ it was back then. I was competitive, edgy, snarky, hard-driving and completely and utterly miserable inside. Yoga provided a path to learn some hard lessons in a much softer way. I learned through my body and experience rather than someone telling me. I’m a bit hardheaded and telling me to do something is not nearly as effective as my learning it myself.
Some of the life lessons I learned in yoga are:
- My mat is my personal space and sanctuary. It is defined, and it is mine. Don’t walk across other people’s mats, especially with your shoes on. If they tell you to join them on their mats, you can go but respect their personal space. Everything is vice versa.
- Do not compare myself to others. I am where I am because of my life experiences. Yoga – and life – is a personal spiritual journey. Like one of my friends quotes, “There’s only one spiritual path, and everyone is on it.”
- Respect my ‘edge.’ I will strengthen and improve by playing with my ‘edge’ but I can hurt myself going beyond it.
- I can always rest in Child’s Pose. It doesn’t have any other meaning except that I want to rest. No judgments.
- Teachers – just because they may know more about some subjects – are not authority figures nor are they perfect or to be trusted unless proven trustworthy. Although yoga can be a spiritual path, not everyone has a spiritual agenda and not everything is sacred. Use my brain and gut to decipher what is safe.
- Some days I need to be gentle with myself and other days I need to get out of my comfort zone. Neither is easier.
- Often the hardest thing to do is to slow down and lean into the pain. It might be easier to rush through and push into power, but I learn to breath and to survive by allowing stillness.
- All teachers have something splendid to offer if I just open my eyes to see it.
- The magic is in the poses. When I was in teacher training, we all were freaking out because we were new and didn’t feel confident to be teachers. Our teacher, Katherine, assured us that this practice was thousands of years old, and the magic is not in the teacher. If we get students in the poses, the magic will happen. I learn by doing. My teacher is just a guide.
- I approach my practice like I approach my life. If I’m getting injured or too tired by the yoga I practice, I’m probably doing that in my life. If I’m being lazy, well that fits too. And my approach to both changes all the time.
- I evolve constantly. Where I evolve to is my choice and my journey, but I go one way or another. I don’t stand still.
- The poses I avoid are often the ones I need the most. Enough said.
- Opening the heart can be all at once painful and glorious. After my second divorce I did a Camel Pose in class, and the tears and pain came bursting forth through my body like a cannon went off. All of the pain I’d been protecting myself from by closing my heart for years spilled onto my mat in a puddle of tears. It was a glorious release.
- Tiny adjustments to alignment can make a huge difference. Rotate your inner thigh out … focus on releasing the psoas … breathe into your hip. I was struggling with getting my balance in Half Moon Pose, and a teacher told us to engage the groin muscle and roll up and out with that muscle. OMG … immediately I was up and strong. It was that tiny awareness that made all of the difference.
- Honor your body’s wisdom. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. You’re not pleasing anybody else by not following your own lead. Your body knows a lot more than you think it does.
- Keep moving and feeling. Our bodies hold emotions from past experiences, and when we open through yoga, we release those held emotions. I always want to be living in the emotions of today not jumbled up with emotional baggage from years past. Don’t be afraid to feel them and let them go.
- It’s not about me… it’s about the yoga. You can approach yoga as a great exercise class or embrace the hundred other great things it does for your nervous system, awareness, presence and energy. It doesn’t matter how you approach it. The magic is in the poses.
- Turn things upside down. When times are really rough … or boring … or out of whack, do an inversion and turn everything upside down for a minute. It makes you aware that you are wonderfully alive, and new blood and energy flows to places that need it. Just make sure you have support in place! It can be dangerous!
- The breath is truly the life force. It is with the first breath that we come alive and the last that we die. How do we take it for granted all of that time in between? Nurture it, pay attention to it and use it sail through difficulties with more ease.
- One is not a lonely number. It is often a lot of fun to practice yoga in a class with others, but it is entirely different and lovely experience to practice solo, to listen to my own breath, to watch the stars go by with only myself as the witness and to honor my own internal voice as my greatest teacher.
What lessons have you learned from yoga? I’d love to hear them!