6 Things my Yoga practice taught me

“I didn’t know my body could twist & turn & bend & balance, in so many ways!!”

My First week on a yoga mat was a revelation! As I look back on my relatively small journey of ‘yogihood’ (that’s the technical term!) I think of how practising daily yoga, is changing me one breath at a time.

I started Yoga with a YouTube challenge- 30 days of Yoga by Yoga with Adriene. That, to me meant, committing  30 minutes of each day to my body. It has been 6 months since my first day on the mat and that has brought a truly positive influence on my life. For each month that I have been practising yoga, I wrote one thing that it taught me. I hope you find value in my learnings too.

Believe- In your practice & in yourself Why do something you don’t believe in? That’s common sense right? In theory, yes. What I mean is, sometimes, we mindlessly do things without truly having faith in them; without mindfully believing in the true potential of the work we put in towards achieving our goals. I have experienced that I gain maximum benefits from my time on the mat, when instead of being sceptical about everything around me, I put all my faith behind my practice, my instructor, even if it is just for that hour. Taking this understanding off the mat & into real life is challenging. But when I do, I am less anxious and more confident, I spend less time in self doubt and more time being creative and eventually, I achieve more than what I sought out to achieve in the first place. And for that I will forever be grateful to yoga. So, I invite you, to try and let go of your hesitations and find a way to Trust – people, your actions, your beliefs, your life & most importantly, You!

Smile – On my fifth attempt of trying to balance a Natarajasan, I had my right leg in the air, left hand reaching out as if to greet someone and with my right hand clasped over the right foot, I was holding on for dear life! My face looked tense, lips were shut tight and eyes fixed on the door as though I was expecting a zombie to walk in. My instructor chose this moment to say “don’t forget to smile”. And when I did smile, I realised how important it was- it didn’t help me much with balancing, but it took away the worry from my practice. Instead of being ‘tensed’ about keeping the pose, I was ‘happy’ about getting the pose. And that I think is a big deal!  After the practice was over I got to thinking about how one smile goes a long way. I now tap into that inner smile, every time I feel tensed. And when I do it doesn’t really change the situation, it just changes my perspective on it. Sometimes, that makes all the difference.

You’re human– You are going to make mistakes. And it is okay. They’d have to invent a whole new set of numbers, to count the number of times I have failed, off & on the mat (Bakasana, I’m talking about you!). Anyone who’s ever tried a difficult pose in yoga, knows how much time and patience it takes to finally achieve a perfect pose, with ease.  I am sure, you have been faced with a similar situation in your life, while trying to achieve a goal (small or big, short term or long) & may be, discouragement from failed attempts got the better of you. I urge you to take a minute here, to understand this- What discouraged you wasn’t your failure, it was your reaction to that failed attempt. And your reaction is very much in your hands! What if you change your response to these setbacks, to forgiveness- for you are only human & gratitude- for having the opportunity to make mistakes that teach you? Let’s turn that discouragement into excitement and courage for a fresh start.

Listen to your body– This is an important and very rewarding life moto. The amount of use and abuse we put our bodies through (tequila shots, anyone?), is enormous. Our workouts, work &  lives in general, are all about pushing boundaries, raising the bar and the whole “no pain no gain” schpeel. That is okay, as long as ‘pain’ doesn’t involve a long term damage to the body. Even when it does, we convince ourselves that resting is for the weak and carry on. Why don’t we eat when we feel hungry, sleep when we feel sleepy, rest when we are tired, stretch when our muscles are sore, drink water when we’re thirsty? Instead of responding to subtle signals, we wait for the big warnings- back aches, knee pains, migraine, dehydration.. And somehow we still don’t get it so we start popping pills instead of changing our lifestyles and eating right. Days that I step on the mat, tired, lazy, hungry, or in pain are days that I don’t make the most of my practice and my time. The real deal here is, understanding that we don’t ‘have’ to take care of our bodies, we ‘need’ to take care of them. So, if you’re in need of a resolution that’s easy to keep, I have the perfect one- Listen to your body. Whatever that means to you.

Power of Simple Things – One deep breath. A smile. 5 minutes of meditation. A good meal. One power nap… and many more that come to mind! These effortless tools have the greatest power of putting us to ease. And many times when we are caught up with rushing through our lives, we forget what they do for us. From practising yoga, daily, I learned to honour these mighty actions and use them when I needed them the most.

Only your spine truly has your back – “You are only as young as your spine.” When I heard this for the first time, I couldn’t really relate to it. But working in a restaurant and having to lift heavy pots, 50 pounds of flour and rice taught me it, the hard way. I went about 6 months with severe aches in my lower back, before I started yoga and it took 1 month of practising daily, the right postures, poses to subside that pain. This discomfort has caused me many sleepless nights. Even today, if I go a week without some yoga-love for my back, it starts acting up. Trust me, your back needs as much TLC as it can get. There really isn’t much you can do without a healthy spine.

So, that was my 6 months on the mat in a nutshell. If you have any experiences/stories you’d like to share, I’d be delighted to read them, leave ’em in the comments below.

Closing on a note of gratitude for this experience.

Namaste!

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