Well-Being//

The Transformative Effect Of A Yoga Practice On Life

From self-kindness to compassion, the practice has single-handedly changed the way I live my life.

fatcamera/ Getty Images
fatcamera/ Getty Images

It often feels like world is moving around me so quickly, much more quickly than I myself am moving. It’s like I just blinked and found the world to already be in a new season. So much has happened and changed in the last few years, colored with new jobs, friends, hobbies, and relationships. But I’ve always had my yoga practice to come back to – to ground me, to humble me, and to make me feel like myself when I think I’m falling off track. There are times I visit my mat more often than others, but each time yoga waits for me with open arms – patient, already knowing that I would be back. Yoga pulled me out of my darkest past when I was in a place of insecurity, self-doubt, and sadness. It’s on my mat that I’ve fallen back in love with myself: how could I not when each time I was able to witness all that my body is capable of – on top of carrying me through my life each and everyday?

It is on my mat that I learned that it’s okay to have limitations, as long as we are aware of them.

Moving through each pose pushes you to cultivate the kind of awareness that allows you to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. With this knowledge, you can create a practice that is challenging without being overwhelming. Over time, you learn how to push yourself but not over the limits. You know which pose require props, maybe a block to support Trikonasana (triangle pose), or someone to spot you in Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand). And by challenging those limitations a little more each time, I’ve come to realize that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Yoga is a powerful practice that engages body, mind, and spirit. Without one, you have nothing and with all, you need nothing else. Yoga is so much more than a power workout for your core. It is a way to view the world – the choice to be present in this moment and to enjoy the here and the now in its full glory.

It is an act of kindness and love, a constant opportunity to shower yourself in gratitude. It is the sense of community of those next you in class and yogis all around the world trying to better themselves in the purest way possible. There is a reason why at the end of class you hold your hands in front of your heart and bow your head as you say, “Namaste” – the light in me honors the light in you, for we are one and the same. We bow our heads and hearts in gratitude for ourselves for dedicating time to our practice and to all beings around us who are also embarking upon this journey called life.

Yoga teaches us that where we are in this moment in time and in space is exactly where we are supposed to be in our practice and in our life journey.

How deeply we can fold in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) is a reflection of how deeply we were able to fold the last time and how tight our hamstrings are in that particular moment. Everything in life that happens to us, happens with us and it is because of all our prior choices and experiences that we exist in this moment as we do. And what we do now paints the way to the next moments that add up to our future.

My yoga practice has shown me that each and every choice I make can have an impact in shaping my practice into the life that I want.

Recently, while we were all in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (downward-facing dog), the instructor told us to press our hips back and lengthen our dogs while saying: “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” The way you approach how you move into a pose that you find challenging is likely to be the same way you handle an obstacle in your job or relationships. Do you take child’s pose when you need a break? Do you take a step back to breathe when you need it? Or, do you give up easily when it gets hard to hold a pose? Take notice of how you react and interact with yourself on your mat and see if you can find parallels in your life off the mat.

A friend recently told me how one of her yoga teachers said that yoga does not change you. Only you can make that kind of change, relegating yoga to be the means through which transformation occurs. I disagree, because yoga changed me. I liken it to a life raft. Yes, I needed to grab onto the raft by going to that first class and putting in the hard work by holding on, but the life raft saved me.

Yoga humbled me in such a way that I did not know I could be humbled. It showed me everything I could do and everything I could be with just me.

And with that kind of faith and grace, yoga pulled me up and out from the darkness I felt surrounded me. And because of that, yoga deserves the credit as much as I. Maybe I would have eventually found a better way, but it was yoga that saved me in my time of need. For that, I will forever be grateful to this beautiful practice that taught me the most compassionate form of self-kindness, the kind I can take with me anywhere, even off the mat.

Originally published at www.spireandco.com

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