10 Lessons Yoga Taught Me
This month marks my tenth year of teaching yoga. My goodness, it feels like yesterday I was walking out of yoga teacher training all lit up. I had never found such feelings of being in the right place at the right time while doing something I loved. I was surrounded by like-minded souls. I wanted to start teaching as soon as possible. I set the mountain of fears that piled ever so high off to the side. Standing in front of a class, talking for seventy five minutes straight, and wondering if I actually had something worthwhile to teach were a few of my immediate concerns. Whether the questions felt reasonable to have me worrying, I would not let them wedge between myself and the practice of yoga. Not one set back would have enough power to keep me away from Yoga.
Ten years later and I have taken on what feels like every yoga teaching experience under the sun. I have taught one-on-one, a great big crowd, in a studio, in my studio, on the water, in the snow, for infants, for seniors, and came out better for it. Every single class has taught me. Yoga is intricately woven into my life whether I am taking or teaching a class. Forever it will always be bound to me. This practice is so unique to me and my needs as it is to you and yours. I guess that is where I will begin. Here are 10 lessons I have learned in the past ten years with yoga a part of my life.
10 Lessons Yoga Has Taught Me
1.Yoga will never leave you.
The time you commit, the knowledge you consume, the muscle memory within your body will always be a part of you. There are times that you may feel like your yoga has gone astray but I promise it is there, deep inside of you just looking to be dusted off. It is ready to pick right up where you left off. You can count on yoga to be there for you through thick and thin. It is reassuring.
2.Your Yoga practice is not fixed.
Your physical, emotional, and mental demands will change the course of your practice and that can be said for a single practice and for your lifetime. You can certainly count on it. I have personally experienced what it is like to practice in a yoga studio every single day for weeks on end, how to tend to my body through three pregnancies and the tender postpartum period. I have witnessed what it feels like to shift your physical practice to more of a mental and mindful approach when mothering and the mat has become regularly unavailable. My body has shown up for me through all of the light and darkness. My needs in practice shift as I sift through all of these feelings. Honor whatever season you are in. It will change.
3. Yoga can offer a better, not more perspective.
The world will be spinning around you but you can ground your hands and feet into the mat, you can take one big deep breath in, sigh it out, and you can let movement follow behind that breath. From there you have committed to being led through quality of movement. I would go as far as to say quality of life.
It will never be how long you stay on your mat, how many sequences you move through but the shape of your breath and the ease that ripples throughout the body that matters most. Valuing the slow and steady quality of life can lead you to find space from your thoughts and optimize your well-being. Be present. I promise you the physical part just follows suit. All of the health benefits and yes, the desirable body toning will show up not through your speed of movement but with fully being behind the movement you make. More is often not better.
4.Yoga teaches you to soften and find grace.
The practice just like the breath has no distinct beginning and end. Yes, you move from pose to pose but don't ever forget how the transitions are just important. Let them be a reminder of the cyclical nature of life. Fluidity follows behind the presence of your breath but don't let tat fool you thinking that it will always look or feel pretty. Grace lies in the mess, the chaos in your head, and the dropping a knee and resting in child's pose when the class has moved on. Scan the body and breathe through the rigid tight spaces. Invite yourself to soften. The mat can be one place you can come and practice unhurried. You can start to invite peace that comes with try easy effort.
5. Yoga is a mirror to your beliefs, fears, expectations, your life.
The practice will challenge you in every way imaginable if you keep showing up for it. I find it helpful to get curious versus to get offended. This has helped me in my teaching. I have come to realize that much of the practice is “you, your stuff”, and has a lot less to do with what the instructor is telling you to do. I remember one of my first hot yoga classes, I sprung right up mid-class, whispered a rubbish excuse to the teacher as to why I had to run and fled out the door. What actually came up for me I will never know. It wasn’t until later in my yoga journey that I remembered that exact moment and knew this was the first time yoga shined the mirror back at me. It was hard to take in.
Try to find the observer's outlook on your mat. Let your thoughts be like the clouds that pass by. There is no need to label each thought as good or bad, it simply is. In this way we can get real honest with what the reel is within us that is played over and over again. What story are we telling ourselves? Is it serving you? If not you can change it.
6. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
I wish I knew who came up with this lovely quote to give credit to. I have said this to myself for the last ten years. It has often made me giggle because it always holds true in my experience. Yoga is just as much of a practice off of the mat as it is on. The physical practice is a playful way to find out how you move along through your day and life. How do you respond when a teacher subs in for who you thought would be your favorite instructor teaching? What do you feel when challenging poses are called out? What way do you move when your body demands rest and the instruction says move? Do you count the transitions as poses in themselves? You have a chance to respond rather than react. There is a way of becoming adaptable and flexible in the yoga practice and not just in a physical sense.
7. Replace “Yoga is not meant for people who are (insert type of person here)” with “Yoga is for every body.”
I can't even tell you how many of my students waited years to try a yoga class because they felt it was for the more flexible, stronger, calmer, more fit people out there. If you want to keep fluidity and lightness in your body, it's for you. If you can't touch your toes or button your jeans, and if you can't hold a down dog or do a handstand, it is for you. You have a place in this practice. There is nothing you need to attain first to benefit from yoga.
8.The harder it is to roll out your mat and practice Yoga, the more you may very well need it.
I understand these lessons are all from my own experience but I believe them to be true. If my stress bucket is full, a yoga practice and breathing techniques can be ever so challenging. The discipline to show up is the hardest part. Tough times can trigger fight or flight responses. Try to conjure everything in you to simply commit. Set a timer for five minutes. Show up. Observe. Breathe. Let that be the expectation in itself. It is enough.
9.The more you learn about Yoga the less you know.
The beauty is that we are all forever students here in the yoga practice. Hell, we are all forever students here on this Earth. Remind yourself that comparison is a thief of your happiness. You can put your energy towards anything you want simply because it feels good, it brings you joy. It has been ten years of me teaching yoga and maybe another year or two than that since I began my yoga practice. I still only feel like I have scratched the surface. The beauty is connecting with others to share what we know and learn and learn and learn some more. Don’t ever stop playing student.
10. Never have I ever felt worse after taking a Yoga class.
What I am trying to convey here is that you won't be upset with yourself that you tried. Not every practice will be your favorite instructor, music, sequencing, studio. You may even be having an internal battle with yourself in practice from time to time but…it will ALWAYS be worth your time. Strengthening this muscle to show up and breath will be an invaluable tool. Be patient with yourself. Cultivating awareness of how you feel and finding out what you're capable of is powerful. Yoga will lead you there if you are willing to listen. At the very least you will find a bit of space between your thoughts and lightness of being.
Have I forgotten anything significant that you can think of? Let me know.
If you are local, I hope you come pay me a visit sometime at one of my True Soul Yoga events. You can always meet me on the mat in the comfort of your own home too. I offer online yoga classes! Wherever you may be, there is no better time to begin than now. And for all of you yogis already showing up, keep on.
Here is to the next 10 years with yoga.