Why do I love yoga?
As I prepare for yoga teacher training this week, this is the question I’ve been asking myself lately. If you aren’t familiar, yoga teacher training is a long, intensive process. My program will last a full year, and it’s expensive. Because of the length and expense, I spent many sleepless nights trying to decide if this was really something I wanted to do. I went back and forth for a few months before I finally committed. With the first training session starting in a few days, all of my fears and excitement are resurfacing. Hold on, this is a long one.
I started doing yoga consistently just over a year ago, before that I would catch a class every once in a while at our local gym. At the time, I was running pretty frequently and went to my first yoga class to help stretch out my tight hamstrings. That was it. To stretch out. It didn’t take long before I realized that my runs were feeling better because of the added yoga. So I started practicing more. I was doing 2 classes a week and then increased it to 4-5.
As I became more serious about yoga I was solely focused on the physical practice; it began as a competition with myself – how my pose looked in the mirror, or if I was as good as the person next to me. I became asana (posture) driven, constantly trying to put my body in shapes it wasn’t quite ready for just because the person next to me was doing them. This mindset worked for a little while, my physical practice was getting better and better, until one day I tried to twist a little too deep and popped two ribs out of place. OUCH! I was out of commission for a month. Talk about miserable.
I remember the class where everything changed for me. I had just recovered from the rib incident, and my primary focus was to listen to my body. Throughout the class, I kept repeating to myself “listen to your body.” It was in that practice, as I laid in Savasana (final resting pose), that I realized I did not think about a single thing for the entire hour and a half. I didn’t run through my to-do list, put together a grocery list, or think about what I was going to make for dinner. My complete focus was inward. That had never happened to me before. Since that practice, “listen to your body” has become my focus every time I step on my mat.
In all my life, I’ve never been able to quiet my mind and simply focus on one thing (or nothing at all), yoga has taught me how to do that. My mind runs a million miles a minute, constantly thinking about 15 things at once, but you can’t stand on one foot and think about your to-do list. If you can, put your leg behind your head and try… doesn’t work. Yoga has taught me to quiet my mind and just breathe.
Yoga has taught me to be happy with me and stop comparing myself to others. I never feel good enough when I compare myself to others, and that’s not a fun mindset to live in. Instead, I try to focus on my strengths and be happy with where I am in that moment. I learned this the hard way, compare yourself to others and you will mis-place ribs. Lesson learned.
Like most women, I’ve always been a little self conscious about my body. I think everyone has something they have wanted to change or improve about themselves. Yoga has made me realize that I am imperfect, and that is just fine. As I practice, I’m reminded just how amazing the body is, even with a little extra padding. Each time I come to my mat something new happens to me, and it makes me excited to come back. Whether I was able to do an asana (posture) that I hadn’t been able to, hold an asana longer than I had ever before, or maybe it was simply to settle my mind. It’s amazing to see the physical and mental benefits you reap from yoga.
Yoga has taught me to live in the present moment. Some days my body can’t do an asana it did the day before, and that’s ok. I’ve learned to practice with the body I have today. When I first began yoga, I thought it was all about the postures; but as I’ve continued to practice, I’ve learned the postures are just a vehicle to teach me to settle my mind and be present. You have to be present when attempting a challenging pose, or you’ll fall over (which I have done SO MANY times). I have noticed this carry over into my every day life. I’ve learned to put my phone down, turn off the TV and be present in conversations and in relationships.
Yoga has taught me to respect my body, and the health I’ve been given. I’ve never felt better, slept better, and had more energy. Again, “listen to your body” has become a common theme for me. It hurts my heart when I think about how badly I’ve treated this vehicle of mine over the years – consuming entirely too much Diet Coke in college, depriving it of sleep and sunscreen, spending too much time in a tanning bed, and consuming more french fries than I care to admit. Yet, my body still did what it was supposed to, although probably not as efficiently as it could. 😉 Treating your body right doesn’t have to be miserable, you all know I love dessert. Nothing makes me happier than surprising people with sweet treats! However, I strive to find balance and focus on giving my body what it needs first.
I love yoga because I’ve never been at such peace with myself and the direction of my life. I’m happy with where I am, at this moment, and I’m not trying to rush on to the next chapter. I am more in tune and happier with my body than ever before. I’ve never felt better. It has taught me to see things differently – situations, relationships, food. It has taught me to be grateful.
If nothing else comes of this training, I cannot wait to completely immerse myself into this practice for 50 hours this upcoming week. That’s right. 50 hours. Honey – have the epsom salt baths ready! If I happen to cross your mind between the 12th and 16th, please send a prayer up for me – I will be forever grateful.
I have learned through yoga that I am perfectly imperfect, and that’s enough.