5 Life Lessons Learned from Yoga – A Reflection On 2014

For those of you who know me well, you know I’ve been on a yoga journey for exactly one year.  At the start of 2014 I decided to start teaching myself yoga with the use of some iPhone / iPad apps (Yoga Studio is STILL my favorite).  Once I got comfortable with the basic stuff I started taking classes, which ultimately led to my fascination with hot yoga.  While my practice hasn’t been 100% consistent, I’m proud of the journey I’ve taken (and where it’s taking me) and extremely grateful for the things it has taught me.  Yoga, for me, turned from “an additional workout” to a way of life.  I found myself consistently thinking about the passages read in certain classes, or the advice given by instructors and not only applying to them to what I was learning in classes, but also to my life.  These are some of the greatest points I have applied to both my practice AND my life, that I thought I’d share with you today:

v3121) “Send your breath to the struggle”:

In yoga, we are consistently learning new asanas that may be a little difficult for our body to get into. Naturally, when that happens, we tend to hold our breath and focus on the struggle, instead of focusing on our breath and allowing our body to release into whatever pose our body is taking.  By focusing on our breath, you can actually send your breath to the area of struggle and a release will eventually happen.  Focusing on the breath allows our bodies to relax, which in turn allows our bodies to trust us and fall deeper into the asana.

Life Lesson:  We all deal with daily struggles.  Every one of us deals with something different and we all deal with them in a different way.  Send your breath to the struggle.  By focusing on your breath when things are going wrong, we can help adjust our mindset and refocus.   This year I have gone through so many personal struggles, and I haven’t always been the best at taking a deep breath and refocusing – but, this is something I’m working on.  If I can do it in class, why not apply it to life?

2) “Respect where you are today”:

In yoga, some days your body will bend and twist in ways you never thought possible – and other days, those bends and twists will seem impossible.  Instead of getting angry and frustrated, respect where your body is – live in the moment – and remind yourself that tomorrow is another day.

Life Lesson: Some days you wake up on top of the world, and some days you wake up and feel like the world is attacking you.  We’ve all been there.  Nothing is going right, you’re wondering where bad karma is coming from and you get frustrated.  Think about all of the bad moments in your past, how you’ve gotten through each and every one of them, and are here today – in this moment. Instead of letting it completely ruin your day, work as hard as you can, know that you did, respect where you are and know that tomorrow is another day.

3) “Sometimes, you just have to laugh at yourself”:laugh

This little tid bit brings me back to me days at Yogi Power Yoga in Sewell (shout out to all the 5:30 am yogis!).  This was the place I experienced my first hot yoga classes, and fell in love with it.  There were PLENTY of days where my warrior was NOT so strong… my tree branches were totally “Swaying in the wind”, or my crow was a total faceplant … and I would giggle it out.  Instead of being reprimanded, my laughs were embraced.  I didn’t let the fact that the pose I could do so well yesterday, which was a COMPLETE and epic failure today, get to me in a negative way.  I would say “touche body, touche” and try again – and laugh some more.  Since then if I’m in class and my balance is way off or my flow is completely messed up – I laugh it out, I smile, and I move on.  IT’S OKAY TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF.

Life Lesson: Short & sweet – We all do dumb things every now and again, but what’s the beauty of life if we can all laugh at ourselves and share our hilarity with the people we love the most?  I thank God every day for that AM crew at Yogi Power, and all the amazing instructors, who taught me it was okay to laugh at myself.  I embrace that now – in every aspect of my life.

4) “If you feel tension, let it go”:

Often in classes you’ll be reaching for your toes, or headed into some other asana, and your neck or your shoulders, or something else tenses up.  Good instructors will always make it a point to tell you to relax your shoulders and relax your neck and find the tensions and just let them go.  I used to find myself thinking (and still do sometimes)… “How does one just “let it go”?  If I knew how to stop feeling this terrible tightness in my body, obviously I would do it!” – But then, with some focused breathing and deepening into my practice, it happens.  Maybe not all at once, and maybe not the first time around, but eventually it happens.  When it happens, it’s one of the best feelings ever.   You drop your shoulders, you find your drishti (focal point), and your body will allow the tensions to release.

Life Lesson: Tension is caused by SO MANY ASPECTS of our every day lives – relationships, money, work, health, etc.  While it’s not always easy to “let go” of all of those things, it is easy -and beneficial- to find your (metaphorically speaking here) drishti and release the tensions.  So often we spend so much time worrying about things that are toxic in our life, instead of focusing on the positive things.  By “letting go” of the negative things in your life – the tensions – you are able to focus on the good and grow from those moments.

Last, but certainly not least…

5) “Never compare yourself to the people around you”:

This has taken me a REALLY long time to learn – and, at times, I find myself having to remind ..well, myself.. not to do this.  I have been to so many amazing studios with so many amazing instructors (a lot of which I will list below in case anyone is looking for great yoga classes in Jersey / MD) who have driven this point home over and over again.  Your practice is yours, and their practice is theirs.  What they do should have no bearing on what you’re doing – unless, of course, it’s for inspirational and motivational purposes.  The person next to you may be able to bend and twist and invert – maybe they can do all three at once – and maybe you can’t … YET.  Respect your practice, respect your journey – and yes, recognize theirs – but, never compare.

Life Lesson: I mean, I’m pretty sure this one is self explanatory, but here it is.  In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You”.   Compare yourself to no one but yourself.  They are them, you are you.  EMBRACE YOU.  Be proud of who you are, be proud of where you are, set goals and go for them – and be proud when you accomplish them.  Use other people as inspiration and motivation to get to where you want to be, but NEVER get down on yourself because you’re not where someone else is in life.  Your journey is your own.  Respect your journey!

My Journey So Far:

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In Jersey or Maryland and feeling like you need some yoga therapy in your life??  Here are some amazing places to go:

Central Jersey:

(I have taken Sam’s class multiple times and LOVE it!!)

South Jersey:

(I never had a bad instructor here – ever … Lynette(now in FL), Shannon, Marisa, Lindsey, and Piera)

South Jersey / Philly:

(Justin Reilly’s classes are AMAZING if you’re looking for a challenge and to grow!!)

Maryland:

(Ali’s class brought me back to my practice when I moved here – love her!!  Sid and Sid IV’s classes are both so awesome and challenging!  Ken, Gabby and Liz and Nilvis also rock as instructors

… so, basically, I haven’t taken a bad class here – ever.)

This is my life… In Progress,

Happy New Year Everyone!!

-Kristin

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