Lessons my yoga practice has taught me

Happy International Yoga day! From one yogi to another, let’s celebrate together!

Maybe you’ve been dabbling with the idea of starting up your own yoga practice or deepening the one you already have, celebrating yoga on holidays or not is a definite must. Today, I wanted to share some of the lessons yoga has taught me on and off the mat. Don’t get me wrong, I love running but yoga always holds a special place in my heart. There’s nothing that can compare to not only the physical benefits but the all-meaningful mental benefits from rolling out that mat! Reducing stress, strengthening and lengthening my muscles, and the calming peace that I get once I finish up a yoga session is always an amazing reminder of just what my body needs. I can promise I’ve never left a session not wishing for more. It’s just THAT awesome! Everyone’s practice means something different to them whether its the relieving back pain that it brings, or the mental therapy of pausing their nonstop thinking in savsana that brings them peace. Yoga is a loving practice that teaches the true meaning of surrender. So, let’s talk today about the lessons it’s brought on for me, and maybe it’ll spark up your own inspiration to roll out the mat and get your peace on!

Be here now

A lot of times, my mind can get so caught up in a million different thoughts and directions. I can feel like I just ran a mental marathon at the end of the day sometimes as anxiety can come on at any given time. That is, if I don’t take a few minutes each day to try to bring back my focus to where I am right this minute. One of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle once said, next time you go outside just try to sit completely still, let your eyes look around you without judgement and just listen to the surrounding noises. Watch the people around you go about their day, and witness the world move around you. It’s almost like you’re sitting outside of the fishbowl of life just watching it unfold by the minute. It’s the most calming thing to me and I try to remember to go back to that idea of just sitting still wherever I am. It’s so important to truly “be here now.” It’s really all we have, and all we can do with the life we’ve been given. We can’t predict the future, and we can’t change the past. All we have is this very moment, right now.

Slow things down

I’ve tried a ton of different workouts. I’ve been to barre classes, strength classes, pilates classes, yoga classes and a little bit of everything in between. Everyone has their own favorites, but mine has always been yoga classes. I have a love love love relationship with the slow motion, big, full-body moves throughout the class. The heart opening moves and the deep hamstring stretches feel nothing short of amazing to me. They signify no rush but just deep body healing moves that promote calmness while listening to what my body needs at that current moment. Yoga reminds me to slow life down instead of being in a rush through everything and onto the next thing all the time. It’s good to pause, reflect and show gratitude for this very moment in life.

Plus, that music is just plain good for the soul. Yoga class music>any other workout music, (in my opinion!).

Always go back to my breath

Do you ever just sit and listen to your breathing? I have the worst allergies in all of America and tend to struggle breathing out of my nose most of the day. (I literally sneeze 30 times a day, it’s very unfortunate…) I joke and say that I think my lungs never developed in full adult lungs by the way my lungs feel most of the time. When I take moment to listen to my breathing, most of the time I’m taking short and fast breaths. It feels like I almost never truly take a full deep breath. You know, the ones that you can feel in your stomach. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ll know that pretty much the entire class is a major reminder of how to keep flowing through your physical motions all while focusing on your breathing. The energy you feel instantly when you pause to take a few deep breaths during the day is so refreshing!

Yoga has also taught me a ton about breathing and running too. When I’m mid-run and hear my breath going in and out it helps me pay closer attention to just how hard my body is working. I can hear and feel my lungs expanding and sending oxygen to my muscles with each and every step. Breathing and running hasn’t always been my strong suit but it does get better over time.

Its about effort, not perfection

A major life lesson yoga has taught me is that our practice (in life or in yoga) is not at all about perfecting the moves (or the decisions we make in our life). It’s all about making the effort. When we choose to take that leap of faith and do something out of our comfort zone and choose to press forward, we’re making the effort. That’s truly all we can do in this life is choose to move forward. I believe we’re all rewarded when you show that your effort is there and trust that God will take care of the rest. We don’t have to have perfect positions and balance and flow. It’s all about listening to what your body needs and then going forward with each motion. Then, life follows that effort and leads you where you were meant to go. Plus, striving for 100% perfection is not only impossible and unrealistic, but a lot less fun!

Strength comes in many different forms

There are so many different ways to be strong. it’s not a number on a scale or a size of swimsuit to be a “strong” person. You don’t have to bend in 50 ways in order to be considered a yogi either! That’s always the misconception about yoga is that you have to be flexible and strong in order to practice it. Whenever, that couldn’t be further from the case. Yoga teaches you to grow stronger physically as you practice your poses and grow with the experience of the actual practice itself. You grow physically and mentally and flex your strength muscles in many different forms. Skinny, tall, short, small, large, medium, tiny, not-so-tiny, fluffy and everything in between can be considered strong on many different levels. Always remember that.

Go with the flow

Ahhhhh… the old go with the flow reminder. Yes, if yoga has taught me ANYTHING it’s just that. Literally and physically it’s the key to everything (as I’m always learning myself over and over again!) and just taking things as they’re thrown at you. We can’t change anything that is headed our way, besides our attitude towards it, am I right? It’s all about perspective. Whether it’s that tough crow pose that we know we struggle with because our balance is just not there yet or an unexpected financial difficulty that rears it’s ugly head out of nowhere. We just have to go with it, find a positive twist to put on it, and stick it out to the other side. These are the times that teach me the most about myself. I usually come out on the other side feeling so much more confident in my abilities and more faith in myself to believe that God has gone before me so no matter what I WILL PREVAIL. Otherwise, what else can we do besides going with the flow? There is no plan “B”, so why not embrace the unknown with a positive attitude and mind, and maybe it’ll turn out way more awesome than we expected!

I hope you have a moment to roll out your mat today and soak up the goodness of a good yoga session. Hot, beginners, flow, whatever floats your boat! I hope you can pause and be thankful for your practice today and reflect on all of the goodness that doing your body some good is for your heart and soul.

Here’s a link to one of my favorites! Go check it out!

Namaste Yogis!

As always, from Chelsea