My Most Valued Life Lessons
I remember my first yoga class, I thought people call this a workout?? What a waste of my time! Still skeptical, I went back a few years later when a friend who taught yoga at my gym invited me to take her class. Surprisingly I enjoyed her class a little bit and started taking going weekly. Eventually, I became curious about taking a class at a yoga studio and I signed up for my first heated yoga class. Finally, hot room yoga was the workout I had been searching for!
Although yoga started out as a new workout to add to my workout schedule, 18 years later and still fully in love with heated yoga, I am a student of yoga not for the workout but because my yoga mat is a space where I have been able to learn and practice my most valued life lessons.
Some of the most important life lessons I have learned on my mat.
Suffering is optional
We can’t always control our circumstance in life but we have full control on how we react to the situation and manage it. On and off the mat we can give ourselves the messages that struggling and suffering is an embedded part of life. On the mat we can push our bodies to over stretch or not rest when we are tired and in life we can surround ourselves with work environments or relationships that deplete our time and energy. We can even struggle and suffer on our daily commutes- running through the train station to catch a train even though the next train comes in two minutes, stressing in our cars when there is traffic. Time on our yoga mats gives us space to practice our reactions so that that we can choose grounded presence and joy instead of suffering.
Listen to yourself
There are time on my mat when I push through the poses despite my body being tired or modify because I'm fearful of trying a new pose, with good reason of course! Past the age of ten jumping up into a headstand can only lead to an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital.
But when we take the time to slow down and truly listen to our inner voice on our mat and in life it’s the best guide to know when to step back, reset, and reenergize, or to push through fear and self-doubt and jump out of our comfort zone and into a successful headstand (injury free!).
Part of listening to yourself and being able to release suffering is the willingness to trust yourself. We often look outside ourselves for the right answer- what does someone else's yoga pose look like, what does someone else's job or relationship look like?
Instead, can you look inwards and trust that you already have the answer within yourself? So if you’re thinking, but sometimes I just don’t know?!?! Can you trust that even if you don't know in that moment, that you have all the resource within yourself to figure it out?
Interested in mindfulness?
When we release suffering and are open to listening and trusting ourselves we pave the way for gratitude. We can be bombarded daily with thoughts and messages of comparison and lack, leaving little room to see all the things we already have to be grateful for. It's easy to categorize things as good or bad -I had a good practice if I did all the advanced poses and had a good sweat or I had a bad practice if I was sluggish and rested in child pose a lot during class. But when we release judgment and evaluation of ourselves and just allow ourselves to show up as we are, we practice compassion for ourselves and others. When we live in gratitude, we pave the way for new possibilities and a higher levels of happiness.
One of my favorite parts of practicing yoga in a class setting is being surrounded by people that have made the choice to show up for themselves in a positive way and share that energy with everyone else in class. Easy enough to share positive energy at yoga, but what about off our mats? Can we show up for all living beings- humans, animals and the environment in a positive, inspiring and compassionate way? When we choose to practice mindfulness we are choosing to understand that our individual daily choices matter and impact the community.
A lifelong student
So after 18 years you would think I know a thing or two about yoga, but I don’t. I am still a student of my practice. At first yoga was workout, then it was my stress release, and now it is this evolving mind/body/spirit practice that allows me the space to show up every day just as I am.