Courage. Authenticity. Awareness. Gratitude. Gentleness. What do these words mean to you?
To me, they are the life lessons I learned through my yoga practice. Several years ago, I was in a place of hurt and negativity. My body hurt, my heart hurt and there was precious little mind-body-soul connection. Then I discovered yoga. Coming to my mat every week was scary, and honestly it happened for me at first because I thought, “Hey, I have nothing to lose.” But little did I know that coming to my mat every week meant I was finally choosing growth, change and a different way.
So why exactly, you might ask, do I need a yoga practice?
Here are five powerful reasons you might want to start one this coming year:
- I had everything in my life stripped away all at once, so quite literally I had nothing to lose. I could barely walk, get out of bed, and forget about feeling anything but sadness; yet, somehow I mustered the courage to show up. Just show up. That is how I started. I finally started showing up for myself and not just others. Wherever you are in life, we always need to show up for ourselves too, and I think in this busy, fast paced world, showing up takes the most courage.
- With that, getting on a mat taught me to be authentic. I mean, when it comes to fitness, I have done it all. Weights, cardio, running races, Spartan, fitness comps… And let me tell you that you can certainly fake your way through much of it. But being on the mat is a little different. You come face to face with a real story, and not the one you are telling yourself. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. Sometimes I came to my yoga class prepared for a fast practice, intending on going deep into my asanas, and I would rest there in child’s pose because that is what my body needed.
- How do you be authentic? It starts with awareness. Now, this is the cool part, because the more I practiced being aware of what my body needed, what my mind was saying, and what emotions—see this post on emotional intelligence—were stirring in my heart in class, the more I learned how to do this in real life.This is where one of my favourite quotes by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh resonates, “The present moment is the only moment that is real.” How freeing is that when on your mat, you learn to only be concerned with what is happening right now. What breathing you need to do, where your body alignment is, what thoughts might be running through your mind, and the feelings that are bubbling. In the safety of the yoga room, I have learned about the happiness this moment can bring.
- But what is happiness? Sometimes it really feels like there is nothing to be happy about—and I know everyone has felt this way.. So how do you move from bitterness and negativity to peace and joy? Gratitude. Yoga has taught me that being thankful changes your life. It is really hard at first, but picking out something every day to be grateful for shifts your energy and perspective. Like some days were simply that I had the courage to go to my mat. Slowly it moved to the sunrise, fresh flowers and having good friends. And the list became endless.
- The last reason is something we don’t talk much about. But it is here for everyone. Gentleness. As I was courageous, more authentic, aware and grateful, I began noticing more of what I was and was not.Now that can be a tricky place to be in, and one of the ways I have learned to navigate this on the mat it to be gentle. One teacher began a class with, “Pick an intention for this class from this bag. One word that you will meditate on all class and just see how or even if it shifts anything for you.”
My word was gentleness, and I am 100 percent convinced my life will never be the same. Being of the type-A personality, I can be a little harsh on myself. Okay, maybe a lot harsh. I think it is a badge of honour our society advocates for, that is highly corrosive. Contrary to what I thought, gentleness isn’t the exact opposite. Gentleness means, extend some kindness to yourself. Meet yourself where you are at today, in the moment, and give yourself what you need in this moment. Then the next moment you do the same and so on. Not always striving for the next best thing, the newest, shiniest whatever, but truly softening into who you are now.
So why do you need yoga in the new year? Because what you start on the mat, you finish in life. And it is beautiful. Namaste.
In health and abundance,