The practice of Yoga brings us face to face with the extraordinary complexity of our own being.
It’s been my experience that we don’t find yoga — yoga finds us. It’s only when we need something that yoga can offer us that we are presented with an invitation, and it’s entirely up to us what we do with that opportunity. How we respond to such an invitation reflects how ready we are to begin our spiritual journey. In my case, yoga found me at a time when nothing else worked and I was lost.
The numerous physical and spiritual benefits of yoga have been recounted many times, but it’s always good to take a minute and recognise the positive impact our practice has on our lives off the mat. Here are seven ways in which yoga redefined my relationship with myself.
1. From The Ground Up
It’s not a fluke that the Tādāsana (Mountain Pose) is called the ‘mother of all poses’. The first important step in any yoga class is to find this basic posture: feet firmly planted on the ground and pulling yourself up from the feet. We can’t find that ease, balance and equilibrium in more difficult poses if we don’t first remind ourselves what it feels like.
Tādāsana taught me to always remain grounded. Stay firmly grounded in reality, recognise other people’s struggles and try to maintain your equilibrium even when the going gets rough. It’s very easy to be spiritual and preach about spirituality when everything is going on right in our lives, but could you maintain that same peace and equanimity of mind when your life is falling apart?
2. Appreciate Your Individuality
The many styles of yoga and various āsanas emphasise one fact: we are all different and we all have different needs. The practice that best suits me might not benefit or help someone else in the same way. In yoga there is no comparing or competing. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing because there is only you.
Similarly, as people, we are all different and on different journeys. We all have different stories to live and comparing ourselves to others only brings dissatisfaction into our lives. To invoke the old adage, everyone you meet is fighting his or her own battles that you know nothing about. So try practicing kindness and non-violence to others whenever you’re given the opportunity… and then try it on yourself. Accepting yourself for who you are makes you realise that there is no war within you. You are fine just the way you are.
3. Perseverance Will Get You Where Luck Can’t
As your flexibility increases through your practice you’ll start to notice your body being more willing to open itself up. In the beginning, you’re challenging the strength of every single body part. As you continue, you’ll wake up one day to realise that your body is doing things you previously thought would be impossible!
Perseverance gets you where you want to be in life as well. It is easy to lose faith and question yourself, the hard part is to believe and carry on with the task in hand. If you work at something you love, patiently, consistently and with focus, not only will you get where you want to get, but every moment you will be where you want to be. The best things in life are not free; they take time, dedication, and effort, in the end, they are worth it!
4. Everything Is Connected
To really deepen your practice, a certain amount of time on the mat alone is not enough. We need to watch what we eat, how we sleep and (at a much deeper level) even protect our thoughts. Our lifestyle choices are connected to how well we perform on the mat.
This shows us how our life is a result of every single decision made by us. A fulfilled life is accomplished when you live it with awareness and take responsibility for all of your actions. There’s a poignant simplicity to the fact that the moment coming up will be a result of your actions in this moment. Once you realise you are subject to the repercussions of your choices, it’s easier to live a more positive and generous life.
5. Inhale Deeply, Exhale Slowly
When the pose you’re working on gets difficult to hold on after a while, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly helps us hold on for a bit longer. If we are trying a new pose and can’t make it to the next modification, inhaling deeply set us up to relax further into the pose on the exhale.
Life’s challenges are best dealt with in the same way. When you are in a difficult situation, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. If this doesn’t help make the situation better, it will at least help you to hold on a little longer and give you some clarity of thought.
6. Every Back Bend Has A Forward Bend
One should always follow any pose with an appropriate counterpose, so as always to return the body to a state of balance. The teaching of yoga is that one must neutralize the opposites of duality, leaving us to identify with the one central reality. Therefore, a left twist is followed by a right twist and a backward bend is followed by a forward bend bringing us to a state of equilibrium.
In life, every dark night is followed by a bright morning; all sorrows are followed by joys. Whenever things seem difficult, “this too shall pass.” Every moment is bringing you towards that perfect balance and it’s the struggles as well as the good times that make us grow.
7. Not Doing Is As Important As Doing
No yoga session is complete without the final pose: Śavāsana. The body needs this time to understand the information it has received through practicing yoga. It is also the final relaxation to help us begin anew when we rise from this pose.
We humans are usually running around all over the place trying to do as many tasks as possible without the time and energy to process anything that is happening around us. Sometimes all we need to regain our joy and vigour is a little relaxation. Take a break every once in a while and appreciate the small things. Do things you wouldn’t in your daily life or just spend time lying down and staring at the wall. It’s alright to not be doing anything; sometimes in order to do bigger things, you need to take time off and just be!
Over To You
These are a few things that motivate me on a daily basis to become a stronger and better person. There is something new to learn everyday and yoga brings the awareness to lead a life that is more gratifying. Has yoga inspired you in any such way or touched the life of someone you know? Do share with us in the comments below.