I’ve been practicing yoga for… a long time. I can’t actually remember when I first stepped foot into a yoga class, but I do remember when I first fell in love with it.
Some friends and I attended a large class lead by a lean yogi. He was a captivating teacher and came round to check on all of us during the class. At the end of the session, whilst we were lying in the best yoga pose – shavasana (that’s the relaxation bit) he hit a teeny tiny gong.
The sound that gong made blasted through my body, removing with it any wandering thought or remaining tension. It was like it took that sound for my body and mind to realise what the class had done for it.
Since then, I’ve been hooked.
Now – a good 10 years later – I’m still practicing. I don’t practice every day, but over the last three years or so I’ve built up a pretty consistent home practice after attending classes for years.
In this time, I feel like I’ve learnt quite a bit about yoga, though I’m constantly learning. But, what I want to talk about today is what yoga has taught me.
What yoga has taught me
I have never been more in tune with my body than I am now. In yoga, you are encouraged to be aware of how you feel, physically and mentally. Every time you lay down your mat is another opportunity to check in with yourself.
During a yoga class you not only become more aware of your body, you really see it. I see the peaks and valleys of the cellulite in my legs, the stomach rolls that look like ripples in the ocean and the softness of my arms as I raise them to the sky.
Instead of critiquing my body, I’m learning to love what I see. I’m learning to watch in awe as I move into a new pose, to appreciate the strength that holds me there.
How to create space
Ever feel achy and tight after a day hunched over your computer? That’s your body screaming out for movement and space. I now know how to give it that. I also know when I need to still my mind and find that same space in my head.
What mindfulness really is
It isn’t just about meditation. It’s being present. It’s getting out of your head and getting into your body. It’s connecting with the here and now and drowning out any noise from the past and future. Through yoga I’ve learnt to love mindfulness and to use this as a form of self-care.
That it isn’t just about the poses
The poses are just the beginning. Yoga is so much more than that. I’m going to quote my friend Zoe here:
“It genuinely doesn’t matter what it looks like or consists of. Focusing on your breath, moving mindfully and practicing calming your mind from jumping from thought to thought. Any practice you find that helps you do this is yoga.”
(This is from my interview with Zoe where we talk about her leaving her corporate career to teach yoga – check it out if you haven’t already!)
Ahh – just writing about yoga relaxes me! Anyway, I’ll stop gushing now before I go full-hippy on you. Moral of the story here is that finding something in your life that offers you peace of mind, whatever it looks like, is important for health and happiness.
Do you have anything in your life like this?