For me, Yoga began as a way to work out and to be healthy. I liked it a lot and wanted to be good at it. Plus, I wanted to learn every pose and do it correctly. I am, after all, Type A. After years of yoga practice, I have learned that being a “good Yogi” isn’t about doing everything perfectly. A good Yogi takes care of themselves and honors what their body needs even if it is different than what everyone else is doing. Yoga helped me open my mind to new opportunities and let go of the fear that stopped me many times from moving forward.
Many of the lessons learned in yoga practice can be brought into real life. Yoga is not just an hour and fifteen minutes on your mat. It is so much more. Listed below are a few of the lessons that yoga taught me that have helped me grow, expand my reach, and be present, and my hope is that you can learn from them too.
Now if you have ever taken a yoga class before, I am sure that you have been reminded to breathe in and breathe out through each pose. This practice is known as pranayama breathing, or in layman’s terms, the practice of controlling breath. The Yoga Journal defines prana as the source of life. When you learn to control your breath, you can center your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It brings you back to where you are at in the present and helps you acknowledge your humanity, your shortcomings, but also your opportunity for growth. Breath can hold that much power! If you remember to stop and breathe, it brings you back to your center and helps you acknowledge what your body, mind, and soul need in the moment.
A study performed by Boston University found that taking yoga, even just two times a week, decreases depression. More specifically, it was the emphasization of breath in practice that really impacted their mental health. It is shown that yoga and deep breathing effect your autonomic nervous system, and when balanced out, your brain functions better. I have found this to be true in my life and the people I have come in contact with. So, this is your friendly reminder to breathe for it has great benefit.
The truth is there is no recipe for a “perfect” life. I now understand that each day is different, and I show up different on my mat. And I work each day to be okay with where I am at, to not beat myself up for falling out of a pose or feeling tired. Plus, I no longer try and recreate yesterday. Instead, I am open to the prospect of today. Whatever that may be for me.
Great days cannot be recreated. There is not a recipe for a perfect day or a guarantee that you will have one. The strategy for a great life is to accept where you are and be open to new challenges and possibilities. I challenge you to embrace discomfort. Open your arms to things you thought you would never do. Face your fears. For just as your body grows stronger the more you show up to your mat, as does your heart, mind, and spirit. Discomfort is temporary, and breath softens everything just makes life easier.
A yoga practice is just that a practice, or in other words, a work in progress. It is opportunity for growth, exploration and change; for that to happen, I must show up. I must make a commitment to put myself first and make time for me. Time to quiet my thoughts, create space in my body and mind for breath to flow freely. In the absence of distraction, there is tremendous clarity and peace. The secret is to show up and be open.
My yoga mat has brought me to a place where I belong, where everyone belongs. I truly believe all humans crave that sense of belonging. The presence of other physically, mentally and emotionally strong people surrounding you raises your energy on and off your mat. I have always wanted to be the best version of myself in every way. My mat has created space and time for me to grow in a loving and safe environment. I have learned that the best version of myself is not forced. It is not manipulating my body to where I think it should be, but rather seeing where my body lands and letting that be enough. In that release of control and need, you find a new found purpose.
Come join me on your mat. Show up for you, and keep showing up because yoga can help transform your life.
By: Michelle Bailey