I’m no yogi. In fact, in many ways, I’m the farthest thing from it. I accept my complete and utter lack of having anything that resembles grace, flexibility or patience. And before you cut in with, “but you don’t need to be flexible to be good at yoga!” — that’s bullshit, and we both know it. True, not all yogis start out flexible, but all good yogis get there. And I am not there, I’m still quite far from it; I’ve only just recently gained the ability to touch my toes on a semi-regular basis.
When friends would suggest yoga classes in the past, I would be the first to admit I should go, but ultimately I would skip out. I’m not sure what it was that made me so adamant about avoiding sun salutations – perhaps it was intimidation, my general lack of understanding for anything spiritual or my aforementioned inelastic body; in truth, it was likely a combination of all three.
I’m not exactly sure what changed, but lately I’ve been lured in by yoga.
Sure, I still sit in the very back corner of class and pray the person next to me isn’t judgmental of my inability to hold tree pose for more than ten seconds. And sure, I still have no idea what it means to “let go of the anger in my thighs” or “melt down from my heart”. Yes, I remain confused as to what Mercury’s position has to do with my life.
But I appreciate yoga more than I ever have before, and the lessons I have learned in a heated, sweat-soaked room transcend to help me take on the every day.
Lesson 1: Don’t Force It.
I’m a competitive person (you can add that to the list of reasons why I’m not a natural yogi). I like when things come to me naturally, and when they don’t, I want to put the work in and get results quickly.
Apparently, the practice of yoga has other plans for me. There’s a reason for so many variations, blocks and straps that are available in yoga. If you aren’t quite ready to take on a new pose, sure, you should push yourself and try – but don’t force it. It takes practice, patience and a sense of forgiveness to get from where you are to where you are going. Sometimes there are no short cuts, and you have to put the work in and take the long road.
It can be difficult to notice progress as you chip away at it day by day, but oftentimes that’s the best route to success.
Lesson 2: Be Present.
One of my favorite parts about yoga class is also the most pathetic to admit: it’s putting away my phone for an hour of my day. I know that sounds trivial, but the mix of anxiety and freedom I feel from tucking my phone into a locker speaks volumes of my general inability to unplug – and I know I’m not alone in this.
We are Generation FOMO, incessantly refreshing our e-mail and social media feeds. I feel a compulsive need to check trivial updates are often laughable and unnecessary, but this is the reality we live in.
Yoga class is one of the few times I feel truly present. I am devoid of distractions and force myself to concentrate on me, myself and I. It’s a beautiful (and sometimes scary) feeling.
I know we all know this, but it bears repeating: our time and attention are some of the most precious things we have to give in this world. Don’t just put your phone away for class – put it away for you, your work, your family and friends. Wear a watch if you need to check the time. Facebook and the latest Snapchat stories will still be there when you have some downtime, I promise.
Lesson 3: It’s OKAY to Feel the Feelings.
I’m admittedly not a very spiritual or an especially emotional person. I am a terrible hugger. While I have no problem sharing my opinions, I tend to keep feelings to myself (or ignore them completely).
Most (er, all) of the yoga teachers I’ve had are much more candid about feelings and emotions than I am, which has forced me to get a little uncomfortable and process some of my emotions and feelings. I don’t often give myself that luxury, and I’m starting to realize the bottle-it-up method is not foolproof.
Yoga is unique in its focus on the mental as well as the physical, which has opened my eyes (and emotions) to a whole new practice. Simply put, it’s okay to feel the feels.
As I continue to navigate a new fitness routine during my mental burnout from running, I plan to continue going to yoga classes and learn along the way.
What are some life lessons you’ve learned from yoga? Share with us in the comments!