Yoga As A Lifestyle
Off The Mat & Into The World!
The practice of yoga is just that, a practice, or a daily devotion to our highest selves. So often we set ourselves up for failure by seeking instant solutions that are typically not sustainable. For those of you more familiar with yoga as a physical practice it may be hard to understand that the physical movement in yoga is only 1 of the 8 “limbs” of yoga. The other seven limbs include the yamas, (moral-disciplines, similar to the 10-commandments), the niyamas (due diligence as a human on this Earth), pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (focus), dhyana (meditation), samadhi (bliss or enlightenment — what we all strive for).
I could spend all day “geeking-out” on yogic philosophy but I believe the most important part of learning yoga as a wholly transformational practice is through self-study and experiential learning. I encourage you, whoever you are, to get out and give it a try. Whenever I mention being a yoga teacher, people typically present a list of excuses as to why yoga isn’t a priority in their daily routine, followed by their aspirations to gain more flexibility and overall health into their lives. My advice would be to not be discouraged by the constant distractions life throws your way and to set aside 30–60 minutes daily to treat yourself to stillness, movement, and mediation. Distractions always get in the way of living our lives to the fullest but our personal commitment to our mental, physical, and spiritual health will always remain. Letting go of the idea of failure can be helpful in getting over mental blockages that hold us back from trying our best. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; it is never too late to step onto this path of healing. Whether you are just trying to get into yoga or have been practicing for years, yoga is meant to be a daily practice that ultimately transitions to a lifestyle.
Over time, yoga can positively transform our lives not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Our lives change when we dedicate time to self-care, trust the process and let go of negative or constricting belief systems about ourselves and the world.
During my four years as a college athlete my body would constantly ache. I remember waking up in the mornings, climbing down from my dorm room bunk bed and moaning in pain when I took my first steps of the day. My achy calves and ankles quickly became my “normal” state of being, until my final season of volleyball was over and I developed a new relationship with my body and spirit. I had been practicing yoga long before my college volleyball days but revisited my practice in a new way once I was no longer competing. My body, for the first time in years, returned to a painless state. My time as an athlete always encouraged me to push myself to my edge, while yoga philosophy encouraged me to slow down, recharge my batteries, and to be more mindful of how I was feeling. So many of us live in pain and make up stories of why we feel the way we do. We settle with coping with our physical pain rather than committing to shifting our perspectives and making a change to our daily routines in order to remedy our physical issues.
Similar to our physical health, our mental and emotional health relies on the daily discipline of self care. Our yoga practice mirrors our life. How we show up on our yoga mats parallels how we show up in our everyday life. The more we show up for ourselves and feed ourselves with positive thoughts, the more we are able to serve fully and authentically for those in our lives for whom we care deeply. As we face challenges in our yoga practice, we are faced with a decision to feel intensity to its fullest…or run away. Whether we realize it or not, yoga challenges us mentally just as much as it challenges us physically. In yoga we face our fears and are pushed to our edge.
My least favorite part of yoga class is inversions. Why do I cringe every time my teacher tells me to get upside down? I have a fear of falling and more so, I am afraid of failing. We are all on our personal journeys, and challenged in ways that typically strengthen us. Trusting in the process is the key to developing your mental and emotional strength. I am constantly reminded that my practice and my mental state are ever-changing, but wherever I am at this moment is exactly where I am meant to be. There are no accidents. Sometimes we fall, but do we get back up with a humbled perspective, or are we stuck in the pattern of negative thoughts about ourselves?
We are forever guided down this path we call life by a ever-greater, loving force. Yoga is a practice of letting go, of making space for more miraculous manifestations to take place. The more we are able to create space, drop our expectations, and stop trying to make sense out of the things beyond our own minds, the more we can find peace within our worlds. We are guided to our mats to remember who we are and where we come from, which is greater knowledge and power than we can comprehend. When we sit still and meditate, we are able to listen to what our souls are calling for so we are able to live happier, more fulfilled lives. Making time for yoga is making time for yourself.