Many people ask me what it is about yoga that resonates with me, and I seem to take a breath and pause at the question, almost overwhelmed with the reasoning…
The fact of the matter is, Yoga is a big part of my life and a significant contributing factor to who (and why) “I am”… so I wanted to reflect lightly on the reasons I keep coming back to the mat, more or less every day, for a decade-and-a-half.
- My ‘practice’ has grown and changed with my body. Well let’s face it I’m no 18 year old anymore – but in all honestly, the strength, flexibility and conditioning has held well 15 years later as a result of yoga practice. Couple of reasons for this; getting on the mat regularly acts as a bit of a personal barometer for your relationship with your body and mind. You can feel whether joints and muscles are tighter than they have been in the past, and you can literally ‘see’ when parts of your body are changing shape… shall we say… bulging? So yoga allows you to retain a strong sense of physical self, thus never really letting things get too out of hand. The same applies mentally as you can track the difference in your internal Self-talk on the mat. Am I speaking kindly and with compassion or am I being aggressive and hard on myself? Through ebbs and flows of life, the yoga practice is there, holding you accountable and being a constant point of reference for wellbeing.
- I feel connected to my community through the yoga studio. Over 15 years I’ve practiced fairly religiously at about 4 different studios (which changed as lifestyle-factors changes like work and residential location). What this means is that I spent and spend time with people from my local community. I talk to people I might otherwise not find a reason to. We are in the room challenging our selves and in turn our energy is helping each other as a whole group. I absolutely love it when my first-impression of someone is shockingly set straight and I am schooled about the stupidity of judgement. Most of us recognise the fundamental human need of belonging (based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), and it certainly rings true to me that a sense of ‘belonging’ to community is important in life.
- Yoga can be done anytime/anywhere. Like on a long haul flight… for example. A few stretches in the aisles is such a relief both physically & mentally – better than compression socks let me tell ya. Apps like Yoga Studio really help this anytime anywhere vibe when you can’t get to a class.
- This is the single activity that is absolutely guaranteed to improve my mood and state of mind. Nothing more to be said here really, on a survey of one, the results are 100% effective.
- Yoga is my meditation. In a recent blog post I referenced Yoga as meditation alternative (because… the whole sit there and ‘think’, or ‘don’t think’ I should say, has never worked for me despite my best efforts).
- I’ve learned to practice listening to my body. For whatever reason, sometimes your body speaks to you and tells you to stop. Most of us get this in the form of a giant stop-sign like the flu that literally stops us in our tracks – but yoga allows for a similar level of communication between body and self but on a more subtle wavelength. Maybe postures seem harder than usual or your Self-talk about not being able to balance is harsh and cold.. you can take cues from the yoga practice and apply them to how to treat your body and mind that week. Our bodies are constantly speaking to us.
- It’s helped a hangover or two. So the first downward dogs are a head-spinning nightmare but 45 minutes later,the fresh oxygen-filled-blood flowing through muscles, combined with the compression and flushing of organs means, without a doubt, the hangover will improve! Note, sometimes ‘listening to your body’ needs to be engaged and it might mean staying on the couch instead of attempting sun salutations. In my experience, yoga is the perfect treatment for those ‘dusty headache’ hangovers but not the full-pelt ‘I need a lasagna for breakfast’ hangovers.
- Yoga helped bring a new little person into the world. Perhaps my body’s greatest achievement – the birth of my daughter was grounded through yoga breath (for mental stability and panic avoidance!). My partner’s reassurance that all my years of practice were coming to a fulcrum, helping me in the delivery room that day, was a focus point for both of us. Aside from the birth, being able to practice yoga right up until the week of delivery, and then re-entering slowly a few weeks later was, for me personally, something that allowed me to feel some level of control at a time when you’re body is basically hijacked*. The asterisk here is because I was lucky in that I didn’t have very much sickness throughout the pregnancy, which allowed me to keep practicing when I understand this is not the case for everyone.
- I engage the yoga mindset when I need to. This happens all the time and is a key side-effect / benefit to regular yoga practice. This might be when I’m on the phone dealing with a voice-recognition ‘service’ or when some angry-at-the-world person drives erratically around me… I engage the yoga mindset – breathe, elevate myself out of the small stuff, broaden my view of the world – let it happen, let it pass.
- Yoga has helped me accept that sometimes we go backwards in life. I once got so annoyed that I ‘used’ to be able to do a headstand and then I couldn’t. As if I had earned it and it would be there forever like riding a bike – but no, postures take regular practice and if you don’t do the practice, you might lose the strength or mental requirements surrounding difficult postures. The lesson can be taken in other aspects of life, like the strength of relationships and career satisfaction (getting out what you put in etc).
- My internal dialogue is more respectful. Have you ever really paid attention to how you speak to yourself. It’s fascinating when you start paying closer attention and realise whether you’re a friend or an enemy to your Self.
- I’ve brought the ten principles of yoga into my daily habitual life (contentment, most of all… being satisfied with what one has.) Some of these principles are a little full on and don’t seem to speak to me – but I get the positives out of some and leave the rest. Each to their own.
- I disengage with negativity and drama – this is happening more subconsciously than I realise, but is absolutely happening. The principle of truthfullness leans towards “Live in the truth. Basically, be honest with yourself and others.” When gossip, judgement or drama is around me – I sense a red flag to the behaviour and deal with it (or move away from it) accordingly.
- I look forward to it. Every damn day. Fact.
- I feel at my most strong, both mentally and physically, when I’m practicing regularly. So there is something addictive about strength of self, and this little dot point is perhaps the most poignant of all – I simply feel my best when I’m doing it.
All postures are always a work in progress… hence, ‘practice’…