Lessons I Have Learned On (and off) the Mat

Almost three years ago I stumbled into a local yoga studio. I was late and had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t bring a water bottle or a towel, just my clumsy old self. The instructor was kind and accommodating. I struggled through this first class and woke up the next morning with aching muscles I didn’t know I possessed. Despite that, I returned. My wrists hurt, my arms burned, and my legs shook. It didn’t matter because after just a few classes, I was hooked. 

Some of my friends and family question my love for yoga. "It’s too slow." "You know, it’s not cardio.” "I’m not flexible enough for yoga." "Is it a religion?" "How hippy dippy of you." "Do they make you put your legs behind your head during the first class?" "I’d rather run, walk, skip, dance, lift weights, jog in place....anything except that!” “What do you really get out of it?”

Sometimes I address the questions. Other times I just smile my mysterious yogi smile and move on to another subject. What I know is this: yoga has changed my life. I will never NOT practice yoga. It is in my heart. It is in my body. It is in the soul.

What has yoga taught me these past three years? Hmmmm.....let me see if I can explain...

1. Yoga is not just exercise. It is mindful movement. Even if I am tired or sick, I always feel better after practicing yoga. Always. Always. Always.

2. Yoga has a gorgeous language. The Sanskrit terms of poses are lyrical and fill my being with music. The teachers say things like, “Raise your heart” or “Notice your body” or “Feel your strength.” This language encourages me to love myself, and that, my friends, is a powerful message.

3. Yoga does not judge. Through yoga, I have come to know what my body can do. I don’t focus on my inability to balance in crow pose or come into wheel. I instead embrace my yogi squat and bridge pose. Everyone comes to the mat with their own agenda.  Mine is the only one I concentrate on during the hour I am there.

4. Yoga is about power. Yoga requires concentration. During every practice I tell myself I have the capacity to conquer great things

5. Yoga helps me connect with my creative side. Through the moving meditation I acknowledge and honor my creative soul.

6. Yoga has taught me to be more optimistic. I stand up straighter and look at the world with brighter eyes. I see hope and promise in myself and in others.

7. Yoga has taught me to breathe. This is the most important lesson of all. Many of us forget the importance of our breath. With each breath, I know I am alive. With each breath, I can feel my heart beating. With each breath, I know there is love.

Namaste is an ancient Sanskrit greeting that is usually said at the end of every practice. Loosely translated is means, “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.” What could be more wonderful and beautiful than acknowledging the light in yourself and in others?