Regardless of whether you’ve been practicing yoga for years or for a week, the lessons – both practical and deeply symbolic – quickly emerge. Some of them are light and joyful, which we take to heart with a smile, while others are a bit harder to swallow. Both are necessary, which is a lesson in and of itself.
How do the following resonate with you?
- If you’re not breathing, you’re not flowing – Breath. It’s the one and only rule of yoga that’s downright explicit. Hell, there’s even an entire practice for it – Pranayama. If you’re not breathing, you’re not tapping into the sweet nectar of oxygen that will effortlessly guide you into that badass Chaturanga you hate (or love) so much. Also, if you’re not breathing, you’re likely on the brink of passing out, which is not something you probably want to experience in public.
- Modifications are, in fact, NOT for wussies – Eventually, you leave the ego by the door and settle into your practice with the intent of not pissing off your body. No one likes injuries, and the sad fact is – recovery is much harder as you get older. Modifications become welcome allies in your yoga arsenal.
- Neither are props – Blocks, straps, bolsters, the freakin’ wall. Yes to all of it! Use it or stumble and slip on your own sweat (been there). This lesson goes right back to ego. You begin to realize (and smile) that it’s OK to ask for help, or want to help yourself. After all, this practice is self-love in motion! Why not give that love a helping block once in a while?
- You learn to settle into your zone – This is the place where your drishti (gaze) is soft and locked in, where your balance is on point, and your breath is even, smooth, and vast. You’re not distracted by her Lululemon pants nor his loud Ujjai breath. You’re just there, on your own mat, in your own body, and you feel absolutely at peace. Honor that time, yogi!
- You accept the practice as it is – That day, you may not be feeling a pose, even though you know you can rock it like a boss. Thankfully, you also know that every day brings something fresh and new to the practice you’ve come to love, which is why you allow this new possibility to learn more about yourself.
- You accept your body as it is – It’s easy to get thrown off track by what we envision yoga bodies to look like. The act of comparing sucks the uniqueness right out of you, yogi, but thankfully, you know better! You carry your body through each movement, on breath, with the gratitude that it nurtures and develops you in every beautiful way, on and especially off the mat.
- You begin to let go of things and people who no longer serve you – Our yoga practice opens us up to not just what we do on our mats, but how we live our yoga off of our mats. You take your attentive and honoring nature into your relationships and into your home, where you begin to declutter what’s gotten in the way of your pure joy. Just like you use your breath to clear out the energy and make space for goodness physically, you utilize that same method elsewhere in your life, and watch the yoga magic do its thing.
- Your reactive nature begins to change – We learn that we can’t change people; we can only change ourselves. In our practice, we can’t change the pose, but we can change how we react to it. How does this small speck of wisdom open your eyes off of your mat? Undoubtedly, in huge ways.
- Yoga poses are not the only part of yoga – Far from it! You learn that practicing a set sequence of poses is just a small part of the larger whole, and one that you don’t even need to do all the time to retain your yogi stardom. In fact, you may even inch closer to the aspects of yoga that have truly enlivened you, like meditation or journaling. The benefits are limitless, yogi!
- You learn that you are simply profound – Yoga opens us up to who we’ve always been – true-to-the-core souls, remembering our purpose. It allows us to release the petty shit that stands in mere insignificance of our innate wisdom, strength, and power. If you’ve laid down in Savasana with a smile or opened your eyes in meditation to find this new stillness and peace, you’ve brushed up against this most inspiring lesson. And doesn’t it feel just divine?
No matter how long you’ve been practicing, nor what your yoga looks like, the lessons that are ingrained in this practice are timeless. They teach us – veterans and beginners alike – that all we’ve acquired on our mats are tools to take out into our world and make it a better place. We do that by starting with the world inside of each and every one of us.