I have only been to the occasional Yoga class over the years, but never anything constant. Recently however, I’ve been really making an effort to go more frequently and see what all of the fuss is about.
If you are anything like me, you will be able to relate to my struggles with beginning to attend Yoga classes. The concept of mind-body exercise seems great but being forced to quiet my mind and focus on my movements for an entire hour, is like a flashback to ‘using my indoor voice’ in kindergarten.
Because of my resistance, wouldn’t you know it, being more intentional about my Yoga attendance has opened my eyes to all of the benefits that I have been missing out on all this time. I am realizing why this practice should be a mandatory part of my workout matrix, forever.
There are so many lessons from Yoga that apply to much more than a 60-minute class, but to living a more centered life even off of my Yoga mat.
Breathing is the most important thing.
The most vital part of Yoga is your breath. Your inhales and exhales lead your body through your poses and help to lengthen and deepen your holds in each pose. At the beginning of many types of guided yoga your instructor will encourage you to use a breathing method called Ujjayi.
You are told to start by breathing through your nose with your tongue pressed against the palate of your mouth and to keep your lips sealed throughout the class. You will probably be prompted to ‘focus on your breathing’ or ‘come back to your breath’ often throughout the session.
Did you know that focusing on your breathing in this way stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and encourages your body to slow down and re-center? It can be done when you are feeling stressed or need a little extra focus during your day.
Let it go.
There are specific poses in Yoga that encourage you to ‘release’ anything that you might be holding on to that no longer serves you. Mentally releasing the emotional ties that are binding up your soul also releases tension in your muscles and allows you to elongate yourself further in a pose.
You can feel your body loosen and relax as you tell your worries to leave your mind. There is an obvious connection between the tension we carry in our muscle tissues and the burdens we are packing around in our hearts.
We are causing physical changes in our organs, hormone levels, muscle tension and more when we spend too much time stressed and overworked. Taking the time to let those things go will benefit us in so many ways!
You can’t be bad at yoga.
Every time you get out your yoga equipment, your practice is your own. No matter how well (or not well) you nailed your tree pose, you still got better! Obviously, different Yoga environments could vary from my own, but I love that every skill level is welcome to come and explore how to communicate with our bodies.
Sometimes, at the beginning of class, my Yoga instructor will say “let me know if you are up for some new challenges today and I will help guide you, but if today your body just needs to rest in Child’s Pose the whole time, that’s fine too. Just listen to what your body is telling you”.
I think my body tries to tell me a lot of things that I don’t take the time to listen to. For example, I often treat my body like a slave to my mind and I push it too far past exhaustion, or I don’t take the time to work out some kinks.
Well, it’s good to challenge my body, but I also need to recognize how important it is to listen to what my body is telling me every day, because every day is different.
I need to set aside time to slow down, or I won’t.
It used to be so much harder for me to get my butt into a Yoga class because something else would always come up last minute that I needed to do instead. Once I dedicated a specific time each week to practice Yoga, it became easier to stay committed to it.
Now, on Sunday nights, I book my spot for one or two classes throughout the week. Other commitments work themselves around the time that I have already intentionally set aside for my mind-body session.
Isn’t that exactly what we should be doing with with the other important things in our lives? Saying that we, ‘don’t have time’ for something or someone is the same thing as saying, ‘it just isn’t a priority for me right now’.
Purposefully make time for the things that are the most important in your life and let your other commitments find their way around them.
Most of the things that I worry about are silly.
In the first stage of my Yoga practice, I am supposed to get myself focused for my practice, set my intention, and let go of worries that I may have brought into the room with me.
I usually spend my class time thinking about my worries, then telling myself to let it go and be quiet, then returning to thinking about my worries and repeating that cycle over and over throughout the session.
The other day however, I thought about the things that I had brought into the room with me last week, last month, last year and how the past worries seem so silly to have been so focused on at the time.
The things that I am so consumed with today will probably seem just as silly in the future. I’m trying to do myself a favor and leave the trivial problems of today at the door, and then try to walk right past them on the way out.
Are they worth all of that stress? Probably not.