Yoga! I know I have written about my genuine love for the practice a few times already, but today I wanted to write about how much positive influence yoga really has had on my life. It’s really not just a workout, it’s a way of life. It not only works out the body, but also trains the mind. It brings clarity and serenity to the thoughts. It helps calm stress and anxiety in our lives. It even boosts our moods. So today is dedicated to my love for the practice, how much it has helped me grow as a person, and to encouraging all of you to try it out for yourselves so you can see and feel the many benefits I’ve felt ever since practicing.
While I’ve only been practicing yoga for a little under a year, I’m learning that it’s much more than simply just a work out. It is more than just a practice that makes me sore and tightens and tones my muscles. It’s more than just trying to get in shape and have a nice beach body. Yoga is a way of life. Each day I practice, I begin to learn something new about myself, my boundaries, my mind, my extension of self- control, my spirit, and so much more. I learn values like patience, discipline, self- control, mindfulness, and most importantly I’m learning how to slow down and live presently, because I don’t often do that.
I feel that through yoga I am being shown deeper parts of myself that I may not have discovered otherwise. It’s truly an inspiring journey to be able to notice change in your self-growth. It gives me hope that positive change is possible and that healing and wellness is even more so attainable.
I wanted to share a few things that my journey through yoga has taught me thus far:
I’m learning that yoga is more of a spiritual practice than then religious one, that many people often assume it to be. I know especially that Christians have an issue with Yoga because of it’s eastern religion origins and because of the focus on self, however, I personally feel that yoga is not a religious practice anymore. It has evolved so much through the centuries that it has become more of a spiritual practice rather than a devotion to a God or Idol. I know some folks will still argue, and to each their own, but as a devoted Christian and yoga practicer, I still believe that you can do both, and not have your practice get in the way of your devotion to Christ.
But besides that, I feel that yoga has definitely taught me to be more spiritual and to find that deeper stillness and connection within myself. Yoga has shown me how to let go of a lot of things that I’ve had trouble letting go of. It’s shown me how to really devote time to myself and my practice. It has opened up parts of myself to myself that I would not know otherwise. It has cultivated in me the virtues of patience and discipline. It has helped me to appreciate the slowness of time. I am also learning the art of quieting my mind, of appreciating complete silence and meditation, and also of harnessing inner strength from that place of stillness. I could even say that it has helped me to connect more to God by devoting my practice to His glory and asking for guidance and wisdom in my times of quiet meditation.
Yoga is teaching me self-control and discipline. I am creating a new habit by willing myself to get on my mat each and every day despite my feelings of anxiety or depression or worry or fear. And after I do so, I feel a sense of peace and freedom after completing my daily practice and accomplishing another day’s worth of self-discipline. It is teaching me that there are things bigger than my feelings or my circumstances. That the world continues on regardless of how I am doing and that I must move along with it because it will not wait for me.
Yoga is teaching me patience with myself, which will leak through into patience with others. It is teaching me that it is ok to move slowly, that it is ok not to be perfect or do something absolutely right the first time around. The perfectionist in me was screaming out the first time I could not hold crow pose. I kept falling over or my arms would give out because they were still too weak and I would become frustrated that even my little sister could do it and she doesn’t even practice yoga! But yoga taught me that it was ok not to be perfect, that I should embrace my imperfection and my mistakes or shortcomings because eventually I will learn and grow stronger with each day of practice.
Yoga is teaching me self-acceptance and self-love (ding ding! SELF LOVE). It is teaching me that I have to love myself despite my weaknesses or past failures. It is teaching me that I have to love myself regardless of anything because I am most important to me. I must take care of my body and mind and health and spirit. I must detox it of any negative thoughts of self-hate, self-criticism, or self-doubt. I must encourage my body. I must cheer it on to success. I must accept it wholeheartedly regardless of what anyone says or thinks of me. Through each pose I get to connect with my body in such an intimate way that there isn’t any other way I could think of to treat it with but self-love.
Yoga is teaching me mindfulness. It is forcing me to learn the importance of staying in the present moment instead of worrying over the future I cannot control or the past I cannot change. It is teaching me to enjoy each moment, to savor it. As I’ve read on DoYouYoga.com, “yoga teaches us to let go of the outcome and surrender to the present moment.” It is also teaching me that I am not alone. That there are many others on the same kind of journey as I. That many of them struggle in the same way as I do. And that instead of competing or putting each other down with negativity, we should encourage and support one another instead.
These are all deeper teachings that I am learning from my yoga practice and I know that as I continue on this journey, I will also gain more wisdom and knowledge about myself as well as things I can relate to with others. Yoga is also so great that is benefiting me in so many other ways as well. It is getting my body in shape. It is improving my posture and my sleep patterns. It is balancing my hormones and bringing my entire system back into equilibrium (we know how important that is when we constantly suffer from stress and anxiety). It is making my body stronger by providing a better flow of oxygen to my brain and heart. It is keeping me grounded so I’m not all over the place or losing my focus on more important things because I’m focused on things that do not need my attention. I feel healthier. I feel more energized. I feel stronger mentally and physically.
I hope this is encouraging to you all, especially those who suffer from anxiety, depression, fear, or worry. Because in all truth, it does help relieve those disabilities. It keeps you focused on something other than your discomfort, and we all know that when we are focused on our discomfort it is only emphasized, so what better way to take our minds off of it than doing something that is healthy for our bodies physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually! It covers all bases!
The Self Love Daily Challenge #028: Try out yoga!
So I encourage you all just to try yoga out, at least for 30 days. Take a 30 day challenge on YouTube (I recommend the DoYouYoga.com challenge with Erin Motz or the 30 day challenge with Yoga with Adrienne) or go join a class. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. I promise you’re not going to twist into a pretzel on your first day. Remember to only do as much as your body is comfortable doing. You won’t regret the lasting benefits!