Today is International Day of Yoga and that has me reflecting on all the gifts that yoga has given me over the last few years. Yoga is a practice that I fell into by accident. I didn’t know what it was or the amount of impact it would have on my life in the years to come. When I stepped into my first yoga class it was because I wanted to stretch, that’s it. So today, nearly ten years after taking that first yoga class, I’m looking back at all the things I’ve learned through my practice. Sure, physical poses are there, but the reality is, I’ve grown and developed as a person through my practice and through teaching.
Yoga is more than just asana.
As I alluded to above, yoga has given me access to more than just the physicality of the poses. Like many modern, Western yogis, when I learned that yoga encompasses so much more than the asana practice I was overwhelmed. What if I just wanted to flow and that’s it? I just came to stretch! The more I learn about yoga, the more I’m enthralled by how much there is to learn and discover and how much those learnings spill over into my everyday life. The physical practice simply opened the door for me to find a deeper connection and sense of spirituality.
Anyone can practice yoga.
While it may not seem that way on Instagram, it’s true. Yoga is designed for literally every body. Any pose can be modified and the reality is, yoga is much more than the poses (see above). Throughout my two years of teaching I’ve had classes with people of all shapes and sizes, with disabilities and of all ages. In fact, those are my favorite classes to teach. In those classes I have to let go of the natural tendency to judge and make up stories about others. I’ve learned so much about meeting people where they are and creating space for them to grow themselves.
Connection fuels community.
As I mentioned above, yoga classes are filled with people from all walks of life. I joined my first yoga community, BIG, a few weeks after my now husband deployed to Afghanistan. Living in a new city, with very little network, I felt lost until I started practicing. Yoga facilitates connection and connection builds community. I am so connected to the students I teach at Revolution Studio, my teachers, and the growing community of yoga practitioners that I have the joy of meeting through travel, teaching, and social media.
The power of support.
Just as connection fuels community, community powers support. From joining a studio to becoming a teacher myself, I’ve never felt alone. The connection and community that is created through the yoga practice is so powerful and something I’m incredibly grateful for. And just like people can provide support, I’ve learned to love and appreciate props that can support me in my practice, too!
How to create space.
I’m the kind of person that is go, go, go all the time. I say yes to pretty much everything and the result is usually some kind of uncomfortable stress. I’m still completely a work in progress, but yoga is teaching me to slow down and create space to restore. As a runner and someone who loves to take on challenges, this has been an extremely important lesson for me!
The gift of vulnerability.
It may not seem like a good thing to be vulnerable, it’s scary after all! Teaching and opening myself up to sharing is definitely scary. That vulnerability though, it’s where true human connection comes from. When I teach a class and share from my heart, I’m (hopefully) reaching an emotional place with my students and giving them access to feeling and seeing opportunity and growth in their lives.
Imperfection is perfect.
Coming straight from the perfectionist. Yes. Imperfection is perfect. Making mistakes is where growth happens. I’ve learned how incredible it feels to take a leap of faith and create something. It may not be perfect, but it’s a whole lot more powerful than holding back. When I stopped holding on to my fear of failure, I saw a new realm of possibility in my practice and my life.
Listening to my body.
Going back to the physical. Yoga has taught me to listen to my body and notice the subtleties of movement and the difference between pain and sensation. As a swimmer, my tendency (especially when I got tired) was to muscle through the strokes instead of letting the water and my body work with me. Yoga has given me greater body awareness and allowed me to work with my body instead of against it. I’ve also learned when I need to stop or back off to prevent injury and when to simply take a day off.
The importance of breath.
You’d think that as a swimmer, I’d have gotten this a long time ago. Breath is critical not just for us to live, but for us to thrive. Breath is a tool that can be used for so many things — to calm you down when stressed, to indicate struggle in the physical practice, and even to take your mind off of physical challenges.
I am good enough.
Failure (like most people) is my biggest fear and it’s easy for me to get in my head and run through all the worst case scenarios. Those are all just stories that I make up and the reality is, I am good enough exactly as I am. Yoga has taught me to reframe my perspective, meet myself where I am, and look at the positives. Growth is always going to be something I strive for, but to get to that growth I have to be comfortable in my own skin (or leggings).
What lessons has yoga taught you? Are there any above that resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you!
Originally published at medium.com