I’ve learned some cool stuff recently—some powerful words of wisdom that have proven helpful in my quest towards inner calm.
So yoga may not be everybody’s cup of tea—but it is mine. At least, for the past five months it has been. And I’ve noticed a difference in the way I manage my emotions. This is not a post about all the wonderful health benefits of yoga (of which there are many). But rather a recap of some of the emotional learnings I’ve taken away from my yoga practice over the past several months.
7 life lessons I learned from yoga:
1. Stay in the present. Don’t reach into the past or into the future. Center yourself in the now. This, for sure, is a discipline that takes a great deal of practice to master. But only when we let go of the anger, sadness, frustration of yesterday and the fears, anxiety, expectations of tomorrow will we be able to truly find happiness in today. I want this. Boy do I want this. While I’m making progress, I haven’t yet gotten it down. But I will continue to work on it. I will always keep trying.
2. When you feel your mind start to spin, bring it back to your breath. All the craziness in your head—the regrets, the pressures, the fears, the to-do lists, the never ending whirlwind of thoughts—can truly take on a life of its own. It certainly does for me. But when that happens and the the anxiety kicks into gear, I try to bring myself back to my breath—deep breath in, deep breath out. By focusing on the act of breathing, I give myself a little break from persistent worries vying for position in my mind.
3. Don’t shy away from discomfort. One time a few weeks ago when I found myself in a yoga position that made me (and I imagine a few others as well) want to run away crying, my instructor said this to the class: “I know it’s uncomfortable, but so is life sometimes. When you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you can. Don’t be afraid of discomfort.” She was right. I hate being out of my comfort zone. Really hate it. But in life, we are often forced to that place. So we might as well accept it, face it and push through.
4. You can do it. Trust in yourself. Whether trying for a standing split or a facing a seemingly insurmountable real-life obstacle, I am to trust in myself. At least, that’s what my yoga instructor has advised me to do. I often doubt my own abilities, yoga or otherwise. I lose confidence in myself and sometimes give up before even trying. But what if I had a little more faith in myself? What if I went into a difficult situation—or pose—with an I-can-do-it attitude? Would I get even farther? Probably. So that’s what I intend to do—trust in myself.
5. Cut yourself some slack. Through yoga, I’m learning to accept where I am at any given moment. Sometimes I’m awesome, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I can forward bend with my hands planted firmly on the ground, other times I can only reach my ankles. Sometimes I am supermom and get it all right. Other times, I am scatterbrain-mom and screw it all up. But that’s okay. To hold myself to the standard of perfection every day will only set me up for failure. So, I choose to give myself a break.
6. When it seems unbearable, smile. They say it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Not sure if it’s true, but it makes sense, right? Think of how much better it feels to smile than to pout. I have read that even a forced smile has the power to change one’s attitude for the better. The other day in yoga, I experienced it first hand while attempting a plank that seemed to go on forever. “Smile,” she instructed us. And I did. And it helped… for a few extra seconds before I finally collapsed. Plank or not, this strategy seems easy enough to try from time to time, doesn’t it? Yes… yes it does.
7. Honor your inner light—the divine presence that resides within. When I am told to do this at the end of each class, I close my eyes and imagine. I force myself into the present moment and picture a light shining bright that is my own. Even if only for a few seconds, this thought grounds me and connects my inner self.
As I continue my practice of yoga, I imagine my list of emotional learnings will only grow. But for now, I will focus on ideas above and continue to work on finding that inner peace that I know resides within me.
photo source: freedigitalphotos.net