Some people might travel to 50 different countries and have pages covered with colorful stamps on their passport, some people step into different conferences or workshops, while others flip through hundreds of pages of books, all to simply learn about life.
What has truly struck me is when I learned what a one-hour yoga class can do not just to my physical shape but to my perception of life. I was in the middle of taking my summer classes in college when I decided to give yoga another try. My only intention was to get in shape and to possibly get on a “different plane of existence.” I was in the midst of dealing with body image issues and working out at least three times a week to get instant results before my bikini online order shipped.
But what I was not prepared for were the many life lessons I learned from attending these classes in the just three months, and I have chosen to share them with you:
1. Honor your body for all it has done for you
Every body part is used during yoga to show that every part matters. Although every person in the room has a different type of body, it does not affect the way they perform. Most people complain about their thighs looking too big, their toes looking a little weird or their arms looking too flabby. But what they have never acknowledged is what these body parts have done for them in their lives for so many years.
Thank your huge thighs for cycling you to the grocery store to get you the food you love, be grateful for your toes for taking you to classes to learn something you’re passionate about each day and love your flabby arms for being there with you at work so that you can pay your bills on time. We, as human beings, are so focused on our outward appearance that we neglect the function of every part on our body we call “ugly.”
2. Drop your ego
While doing yoga, we’re constantly told to “drop the ego” at all times by the yoga instructor. We would sometimes push ourselves to do a bird-in-paradise yoga pose to show the person next to us that we’re a better yogi than them without recognizing our limitations. It’s easy to let the ego get in the way of achieving our true desires by pursuing something that is seen as impressive by other people. When we set our intentions to impress others, we might fall and see this failure as an embarrassment. But when we set our intentions to grow and be better at what we’re doing, we fall and see this failure as a learned lesson.
3. Savor the journey
We live in a world where results are highly emphasized. We struggle for weeks, and we sacrifice our sleep schedules for that one test that determines our admission to grad school. We judge an entire album by skipping through songs without going through every single one of them. We glance over a painting for a second without acknowledging all the hard work that the artist has done. We are so quick to get excited over what is going to happen next in a couple of days, or even years, without being aware that we are in fact where we wanted to be just two years ago. In yoga, there is no such thing that one pose is more important than the others because every pose plays a contribution to how our whole body works by the end of the class. The same thing goes for our life journey; every person, every encounter and every moment can contribute to where we end up in our lives.
As much as we want to be convinced by others to keep these, we can’t create the thrill that was not even there in the first place.
4. If something isn’t working, you have the power to change it
Being aware that we have options are crucial. Variations are offered in all yoga classes, which means that we are not bound to creating that one specific pose while forcing our knees to take the pain. Remember the phrase, “poses are optional, but breathing isn’t”. We can have the best job that any person could die for or even date a guy that any girl would chase after. But when we have to sacrifice being in a toxic environment where we’re looked down upon by our boss or a relationship where our efforts are not appreciated, we’re just lying to ourselves. As much as we want to be convinced by others to keep these, we can’t create the thrill that was not even there in the first place. It’s never worth it to go through a series of unwanted emotional experience for the sake of impressing other people.
5. You are stronger than what you give yourself credit for
I had always been aware of how inflexible I was when I failed to do a front roll in 10th grade. This experience used to make me think that yoga was not suitable for a girl like me. But what shocked me the most was when I succeeded at doing a pigeon pose and other poses without using a yoga block. I had to use a yoga block during my first few classes, but with time, my flexibility got better. I have grown stronger with each try. This is the same for work, academics and relationships. We get so worried about not giving our best effort to our bosses, or not doing the best we can when it comes to classes or not saying the best things to our partners. At the end of the day, we are indeed our own worst critiques when in fact, others may not think of our mistakes as much as we would love to think of them.
Yoga shows how much you believe in yourself and how much you value yourself. After all, you wake up in the morning and walk to yoga for YOUR OWN practice, YOUR OWN health benefits and YOUR OWN mental health. Therefore, never forget to dress up for YOURSELF, learn for YOUR OWN growth and ditch the toxic environment for YOUR OWN benefits.