I love yoga, it is that simple. I credit yoga for so many of the good things in my life:
- Addressing (and healing) physical pain (back pain is what drew me to yoga in the first place)
- Supporting me in my fight with depression (see this post)
- Keeping me flexible and strong
- Giving me a way to self-soothe when I feel stressed, sad or angry (see this post)
Yes, yoga has had a dramatic impact on all areas of my life but today I wanted to talk about an often-ignored gift that yoga offers – self-awareness.
For most beginning yoga students, we work on the physical level of the poses – we learn how to adjust our shoulder blades to release tension in the neck and upper back, we notice how a subtle shift in the angle of our hips completely alters the stretch in our legs, we observe our bodies growing stronger and more flexible with each passing class and practice. Over time, a yoga student starts to notice how the body feels off the mat and uses those valuable lessons to reduce pain and tension even while standing in line at the grocery store. As we get to know our bodies well we are better able to listen to it and this awareness can lead to changes in diet, sleep patterns and other habits.
Often the second stage of growth in a yoga practice is a combination of mental and emotional awareness – how many times have you seen how yoga can relieve stress and soothe the mind? We live in a fast-paced world and we are not encouraged to slow down and listen to ourselves; yoga gives us the tools we need to tune in with our mind and our emotions. When we slow down enough to turn off the chatter (often called the monkey mind – great picture!!) we are finally able to hear the truth in the silence. Perhaps we hear the call to get outside more, change jobs, make art and those small nudges that are often drowned in the cacophony of the every day. As the awareness of the stillness within grows, we become more intimately acquainted with our authentic being and that is a gift that cannot be measured. I can say with absolute certainty that yoga has helped me be happier, less angry and a whole lot less judgmental.
The fourth level of this human existence is spiritual and what I have learned over the years of my practice is that getting to know myself on all the other levels has only served to deepen my spiritual practice. It is my experience as a yoga teacher with a wide range of students that yoga can strengthen any faith because it allows you to become completely yourself and that means you show up before the world truthfully.
No matter where you find yourself in your yoga journey, I wish you well. Taking 5 minutes daily is better than an hour once a month, picturing yourself on the mat once you’ve collapsed into bed is better than nothing! We call it a practice and we are all beginners every time we step a foot on the mat.
Here are two posts that might answer more questions:
If you’re interested I am teaching a workshop in Redmond, WA starting January 14th, 2016 – Link
Namaste (a yoga expression that I translate – “that which is sacred in me acknowledges that which is sacred in you”