My mind has a tendency to run 150mph in all different directions with sporadic thoughts sending me to a paralyzing state of panic and anxiety. Even after years of regular exercise, i still needed something to keep my mind from escaping to its dark place which manifested from thoughts of failure to inadequacy and emptiness.
I read online about the mental and physical benefits of yoga and decided to give it a go. Because why not? It is an ancient centuries old practice that seemed beneficial for people, not only for health but also wellness.
It was a chilly day out, and during lunch hour I walked into the studio more timid than I can remember. I was frustrated with myself because I kept getting out of alignment and could not hold the poses properly while everyone around me seemed lithe and strong. I thought about walking out, giving up. But the stubborn part of me didn’t want to because giving up is giving up. I am better than that.
The instructor, with his clear voice and strong command of the room, guided gracefully about transitioning us from one pose to another, ending in Savasana – a pose that gradually relaxes your body and mind by laying down. For 5 minutes, I wasn’t sure how to keep my eyes closed, how to turn off my brain, how not to move. It was all very strange because i was tense the entire time.
Even so, after the class was over, I walked out with more energy than I came in with. My body felt more relaxed despite feeling tense. It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it almost felt like a mental detox of the morning’s comings and goings. I started attending classes more regularly (3x a week), and sometimes on the weekends as well. The classes have definitely improved my mental well being, and opened up my heart and mind to places within myself I hadn’t yet faced. I found that i wanted to understand the deeper spiritual aspects of the ancient practice, the roots of what makes up yoga, its principles and philosophies.
In 6 months, 10 things I learned:
- All The Strength That You Need Is Within Yourself. Yoga takes a lot of practice and patience, and often the poses can be challenging. But you create space when doing a pose, and push through the pain so that it will gradually become as natural as breathing. And all that strength, it is from you.
- Let Go Of It. All Of It. All your everyday stressors are small in the grand scheme of things. When you have something negative holding you back, it is a tension that affects our bodies. In life, we endure so much and often hold onto things that do not bring us happiness. Yoga helps to alleviate that tension by cycling through poses that create tension so when you push through it, you’re essentially battling through the tension and hopefully letting it go.
- It’s Not About Being The Best, But About Being The Best That You Can Be. I started yoga thinking I wouldn’t have the patience for it, nor I would never be strong enough to continue because of loud thoughts clouding my headspace. But really, yoga taught me that strength comes from within and how you control that strength is up to you. Be the best that you can because you are good enough. You’ve always had it in you.
- Embrace Vulnerability. There are so many poses that I have trouble with, and I oftentimes feel embarrassed to try them for the fear of falling. Similarly, in life I am often shy in front of my colleagues and sometimes not speak up for the fear of them judging me. But I am learning that judgements are only reserved for yourself. No one’s opinion of you matters other than yours. By embracing this vulnerability, we are essentially valuing it as a strength.
- Breathe Deeply. This is something I have trouble with. I find I often take small short breaths and not breathing properly. During our poses, I sometimes find that i hold my breath unconsciously, which makes me lightheaded. In yoga, breathing is a very integral part of the practice. It is something I’m working to improve.
- You Are Stronger Than You Think. I could not do a push up before, or anything that requires any ounce of strength. I’ve improved a lot now and realize it is because all the poses we do require concentration and strength. I was silently freaking out when I did my first chaturanga. Hey, baby steps.
- Slow down. Be Aware. If there is the one benefit that I gained from yoga, it has to be the awareness that comes from the mind. I’ve always been an observant person but ever since I started yoga, I have been more aware of what’s around me, energies from people, etc. I feel more connected to myself in a way that I never did before. It also benefits me for work too – i notice a lot more details on complicated spreadsheets!
- Meditate Regularly. This is one thing I cannot do yet. Sometimes I get into that headspace for a minute before thoughts start to flood my mind. Meditation is supposed to help the mind be more aware, to relieve stress through breathing. I am still learning how to prepare and get into it. It’s challenging but I am determined!
- Your Intuition Is Usually Right. The more I do yoga, the more balance I feel in my life. Outside of yoga, more than ever I am not going against my intuition to make others happy. My gut told me to start this blog and develop myself into a better writer/person. Because we are our own biggest critic, it’s easy to fall into the pitfalls of being uncertain and doubt our feelings.
- You Get In What You Give Out. I think this is very true. When you give out positive energy, it circles back to you. Even if someone’s negative orbit crosses your path, your positivity is still there. In yoga, I’ve learned that the more I give, the more I get out of it. In a sense, the harder I try, the more happier I become. Because I tried it. And it goes along with the same principle of embracing your vulnerability as a strength.
Today I cannot imagine not incorporating yoga into my life, because it has directly influenced the type of person I want to be and eventually the type of person I want to become. I still have many areas of improvement, and sometimes trusting yourself is the hardest bit. Sometimes in yoga I feel too much, and it’s so overwhelming I have to step out of the classroom. Too much thoughts still flood my mind, but it’s getting better. It’s progress. I like it in a sense where there is no ending. You always get something new out of it. You are product of your own patience.
I would like to go to a yoga retreat for few days. Unplug, and unwind.
What about you? Do you practice yoga?