I’ve been doing yoga for about a year now, and it’s completely changed my life. I am not just referring to the physical benefits such as toning, increased flexibility, and in general, a damn good workout. I am also referring to the mental and emotional journey (we yogis love the word journey) my practice has taken me on.
Regardless of your religion (yes, Christianity and yoga can work beautifully together), there are some principles we practice on our yoga mat that is easily transferable into our daily lives. And this is one of the things I love most about yoga: whatever it is I work on or sweat through on my yoga mat, I can implement in my daily life.
With my stay here in New York I have been blessed to have a yoga studio in my apartment building, and it’s been a life saver! I am now practising twice a day almost daily and this has allowed me to deepen my perspective of yoga in general as well as my own practice. And I would love to share some of these things with you. Of course, it is too much for only one post and I will most definitely write more on this in the future.
The first thing I have learnt through yoga is not to focus on the people around you, but rather directing your focus inward. As with anything in life it is quite easy to compare yourself to those around you, and this was one of my biggest fears when I first started yoga. I had no idea what I was doing and feared that I would look like a lost praying mantis, with limbs everywhere. But, we yogis don’t even look at one another in a class. We are so focused on our own practice, working on the poses or deepening the breath, that we don’t look around to compare. And this is something I have tried to implement in my daily life: not to compare myself to those around me, but to rather focus on where I am in my own life and to walk my path at my own pace.
The second thing I’ve learnt is one of the simplest: breath. We base our whole practice around our breathing. Every movement and every pose are accompanied by a breath: inhale, exhale. And our practice begins and ends with focusing on our breathing. This allows our yoga practice to be meditative. Nowadays, when I feel stressed, overwhelmed or even tired, I take the time to slow down and just focus on my breathing. Deep inhales and long exhales slows down your heart rate and allows for enough oxygen to move through the body. Breathing is essential to life and it is beautiful in its simplicity. Do not underestimate the power it has to calm and centre you.
The third thing I have learnt from yoga is that when something doesn’t work, change it. Or use tools to help you improve or adjust. When I practice yoga and I feel something doesn’t work, like a struggling with a difficult pose, stiff muscles, or my balance is a bit off (which often happens due to my low blood pressure), then I know I need to adjust my practice accordingly. I either slow down or use props to help me, such as yoga blocks or straps. And that is perfectly okay! It is my practice and my journey, and I need to do what is best for me. The same goes for everyday-life. There is no shame in using “props” to help you when the going gets tough. For example, seeing a psychologist or going to a support group. Or even just relying on family and friends to help you through tough times. Use these “props” to help you on your own journey, to adjust yourself to be able to handle whatever life throws at you. This is your life and you need to do what is best for you, because only you can take responsibility for yourself.
Whether or not you practice yoga, I invite you to try and focus on your own journey, instead of those around you. And remember to breathe, deeply and actively, to calm your mind. And last but not least, find a happy place – a place where you are free to be yourself and where you can be still, allowing yourself to feel and think what you need to.
Sending love and light to you all.