Life Lessons From My Mat
I began my yoga practice in 1996 at the suggestion of a co-worker and friend. In the past twenty two years I've learned many things. I've learned a lot about yoga and life from all of those hours spent on my yoga mat.
Yoga has taught me to note my own imperfections, and then move beyond them to appreciate my progress. As an ex-perfectionist, I used to think I had to do everything a certain way: the "right" way. Practicing yoga has trained me to recognize my short-comings and learn from them. Noting progress in my yoga postures and in life off my mat has helped me to recognize that I am always learning and growing and changing. I have accepted that there is no perfect in life. There is only progression toward our goals and toward who we strive to be.
Yoga has taught me to breathe through the tough times. Focusing on the breath is a technique we use in meditation and yoga classes. For instance, we can move with the breath in a vinyasa class or we can hold a posture for five breaths in Ashtanga. When I feel tension in a posture I bring my awareness back to my breath. Likewise, when tension or stress creeps into my life I shift my attention to the breath. Taking a deep breath before reacting or speaking is a technique for maintaining calm in most any situation. Breathing can't take away the stressful situation, but it can create a pattern of peacefully dealing with life.
Yoga has taught me to love myself. Though I am imperfect, I am worthy of love. We all are. I love my imperfect physical body, though there is much it cannot do. Appreciating what this body can do is one way I practice love and gratitude for myself. Witnessing first hand what my physical body can do on my yoga mat has been awe inspiring. While my poses may not be worthy of the Yoga Journal cover, they are expressions of my own strength and capabilities. Recognizing my own strength and abilities reminds me that I am special and worthy of my own love.
Practicing yoga has been both a physical and an inner journey. While I have learned much about yoga postures and the physical practice, I have learned as much about myself and life. I am perfectly imperfect, worthy of my own love, and strong enough to breathe through life's challenges. I am me: a yogi both on and off the mat.