In the last few months I have really enjoyed trying and experiencing the journey of yoga. There have been good days where I feel powerful and strong and practice yoga with confidence and grace. There have been “not so good days” where I feel shaky, vulnerable, off balance, and anything but graceful. And there have been many days in between. However, the life lessons I have been learning from this ancient and sacred practice have been many, and the life metaphors have been abundant. As intimidating, scary, and risky as yoga can seem, I am strongly encouraging girls everywhere to try it for the sheer fact: it feels good and helps build confidence and connection to the self.
When girls can learn to slow down, calm their minds, be observant and curious about their inner worlds, and let go of all expectations and attachments to unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and habits, they learn to check in with their bodies, listen to themselves and trust their intuition, and discover who they are. I believe that it is through yoga that girls can embark on the powerful and insightful journey of self-discovery, self-kindness, self-compassion, inspiration, creativity, and inner peace and calm.
Although I am relatively new in my yoga practice, here are a few things I have learned about yoga so far and a few life lessons that have emerged for me:
It’s important to “go with the flow”: Yoga is all about “flow”: flow of breath, flow of postures, flow of feelings, and flow of thoughts. There is a constant flow of energy as we learn to do various postures, tune into our feelings, let go of distracting and unhealthy thoughts, and find balance. Yoga can help us tune in with ourselves to find our inner flow. We can find flow by practice, not perfection and by acceptance, not resistance. Flow implies movement and in yoga there is always more to learn and areas to grow in.
Life lesson: Some days, flow comes easily to me as I stand firm on my own two feet, I am open minded to trying new things and new thoughts, and I am able to see all of life’s possibilities. Flow, in yoga, reminds me of balance in life and priorities, finding perspective, and making healthy choices. However, my life does not always find flow so easily – there are struggles and challenges and days I feel “blocked” and frustrated about reaching my goals. However, when I consider flow and can see that flow is a natural extension of awareness and openness, usually there is a shift within me and flow comes as the result.
We need to stay wide-awake: It is important to be aware. And, as we practice yoga, we learn to stay alert and pay attention – to our feelings, our thoughts, our surroundings, and new physical sensations in our bodies. By observing ourselves and paying close attention to how we are doing and what is happening for us, as it is happening, we learn to be more self-aware, aware of our reactions in different situations, and we learn to consider how we affect others. As a result, I think we learn how to make healthy choices and we become more considerate and intentional about our choices. Behaviour is a habit and as we are aware of our behavior, we become aware of changing the behaviours we want.
Life lesson: The greatest challenge for me (in yoga and in life) is being aware and present. I get very caught up, even obsessed, with both the past and the future. However, in yoga, I am reminded to be present and when my mind wanders and usually starts to either analyze or over-plan, I gently bring myself back to the here and now. So much of my time and energy is devoted to rumination and I am learning to practice mindfulness and, by extension, gratitude for all I aspects of my life.
Yoga is a choice: Yoga is not a passive activity, even though it may look that way. Instead, yoga is an active choice and decision. We choose to try yoga, to show up, to be aware, and to possibly grow and change. This takes courage – as we learn to face and listen to ourselves. It takes inner strength and determination to push beyond our comfort levels and challenge ourselves. Some days, it’s about pushing to grow and experiencing movement. Other days, it’s all about hanging back, listening to our bodies, relaxing, and simply “taking it easy”. Growth happens one step at a time and whether we are resting and stepping back to gain perspective or actively pursuing growth and change, we are choosing to be active.
Life lesson: Life is full of choices. So often, I take action and push myself to reach my goals and achieve, so that progress is made. It took me quite a long time to learn the value of play, fun, and rest and relaxation. I felt these pastimes were a “waste of time”. But, as I tried to balance work and play with busy and slow days, I experienced, first hand, the benefits of inaction. When I took time off to slow down and nurture myself and to simply be, I found new energy, perspective, and enjoyment in my activities. And, this is a choice.
Life is easier when we surrender: As difficult as this may be, it is important to calm our minds and let go of attachments. We so easily and automatically get attached to thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that keep us feeling “stuck” or “blocked” and these can prevent us from growing and moving forward. In yoga, we learn to surrender to these attachments, just as we learn to surrender to poses. When we focus on the simplicity of our breath, we learn to channel our energy into what we can control and what’s most important in that moment, instead of what we can’t control and what may not be that important in that moment or even at all.
Life lesson: I have learned a lot about surrender. I get really attached to thoughts – especially negative ones. They tend to recycle over and over again as I process, analyze, and often reprimand myself for something I did or said or neglected to do or say. However, this behavior and attachment serves no purpose. So, it is through yoga that I have learned to let go of these thoughts and let go of all judgment and criticism toward myself. I know I am doing the best I can each and every day. And, this is sweet surrender!
Source: Yoga Chick, by Bess Gallanis