Evolve with Your Practice
Yoga Creates a Healthy Habit
There are many things that the physical asana practice of yoga can teach us. We all show up on the mat for various reasons, but what we walk away with might be much different that what we expected. Some of us show up because we are looking to build strength and flexibility, stress reduction, weight loss, etc. Some of us can’t even muster up enough courage to walk into a class even though we’ve been practicing at home with videos. By the way, it takes some of us (myself included) to gather up a lot of courage to get into that first yoga class. I still haven’t quite figured out why it is so scary by the way…
Yoga Helps Build Self Esteem
Showing up to class when everyone else is at home putting on their comfies. This is the biggest one. A regular yoga practice helps build self-discipline and over time confidence in ourselves to follow through with things. I know it is much easier to stay in, change out of work clothes, and putter around the house for the evening. Especially during the winter months when it gets dark earlier and its cold and snowy. Going to yoga class instead, is great exercise, and helps to reduce stress levels in way that puttering around in comfy clothes cant. Yoga balances the nervous system along with the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Something you can’t get from sweatpants, a glass of wine, and American Idol. Once we’ve made it to class, the practice can also teach us things about ourselves, our thinking, our reactions to situations, and our self-confidence.
Yoga Helps Us Be Less Concerned With What People Think About Us
Learning to be more concerned with what is on the inside, instead of what we see on the outside. One major thing to deal with is our outward appearance in the pose. We worry about how we look to others. Working on this in class spill over into our daily lives. Sometimes our concern about our outward appearance is a wonderful thing and helps us to appropriately fit into a social setting. Other times, it can be unnecessary and more of a distraction from what is most important. Finding this ease and grace in life is not something we are born with. I can tell you that most people don’t notice very much about what you look like in the pose because they are concentrating on their own practice.
Yoga Helps Cultivate Patience, Acceptance, & Character Growth
Being uncomfortable in a pose and holding it anyway. This is a big one. Of course, I’m not advocating hurting yourself in yoga, or forcing your body into poses you aren’t ready for, but there are definitely some poses that we like better than others. The challenge of staying in the poses we dislike for the duration of the breath count helps cultivate patience, acceptance, and character. Settling in for the longest 45 seconds of your day in an uncomfortable pose and finding peace in your breath helps to let go of some of the anxieties we have in our daily lives. It’s a kind of “this too shall pass” mind set that helps us find strength in ourselves to persevere through anything life throws our way.
Yoga Helps Us Find Strength in Fear & Grace Through Change
Finding strength in fear. This one is big one too, and very rewarding. We all have fears in life, they just vary from person to person. Some yoga poses are scarier than others. When I think of yoga poses that are a bit scary… backbends, arm balances, and handstands come to my mind. And for good reason. As a species I think we carry a lot of fear regarding our spine. It houses the spinal chord and is the major communication center between our brain and our body. If something were to happen to it, we would be in big trouble. At the same time, the spine has a lot of flexibility built into in that we rarely use. Finding that zone of safe practice for your body is a way of finding strength in fear. Same goes for arm balances, we fear that we might fall on our face. This is something we face in our daily lives in a metaphorical way. Practicing arm balances helps us to cultivate strength in the face of fear in a very literal way.
Over the years as I’ve practiced more and more difficult poses, I have found that accomplishing something in my physical yoga practice gives me a sort of inner self-confidence that I used to get from other sports that I just can’t practice anymore. At age 37 my body would rather not do high impact sports and exercise. I get wear and tear aches and pains with other sports that I don’t seem to get with yoga. Advancing my practice over the last 15 years or so has allowed me to move into a variety of advanced poses and transitions to keep my practice fresh and challenging. Just this year I learned a new transition – from handstand to koundinyasana 2. I’ve never seen anyone do it in person before, but I saw a young man do it in a youtube video a few years ago, before I had my daughter. I tried it then and I literally fell on my face. It wasn’t pretty and I think I had a bruise on my foreheard. Needless to say I didn’t want to try it again for a long time. A while back I saw another video showing the same transition and I watched it over and over again, maybe about 10 times. I decided to try it again, and this time I was getting much closer and not falling on my face. One day, I finally landed it and it was exhilarating! I was surprised at how much strength it required in my whole body. Not just the arms, back and chest, but legs, abs, but EVERYTHING all at once….while trying to not fall on my face. Whew. Now, I keep it a regular part of my practice and I enjoy the strength it builds and try to find more grace in the transitions. Now that I think about it, that is also a metaphor for life as well…finding grace in transition or change.