Like a lot of people, I was attracted to yoga initially for the ‘asana’, or physical poses. I thought it would be a great compliment to other activities I did such as running, going to the gym, etc. Also if you look up yoga on Pinterest or Instagram the models have amazing bodies, right? I suppose it crossed my mind that it might also be relaxing, but I wasn’t going into it from that angle… I didn’t have time to relax and definitely approached yoga without any spiritual intention. I was the person at the end of a Body Balance class at the gym who would leave before the lying down part at the end as it was a waste of my time.
Then I tried Vinyasa yoga and I fell in love with the flowing movement and I got to sweat – something I wasn’t expecting, but an added benefit for someone who saw yoga as a means of getting more exercise and improving my body. I was a busy human with a full time job so this seemed like great multi-tasking. Quite quickly something strange started to happen… I started to actually ENJOY the lying down bit at the end of class which I had always avoided (it now had a special name – Savasana).
I found my mind was completely clear and I felt very different to the way I felt after any other ‘exercise’ class. I would (and still do) go into class with my mind buzzing about all that I had to do, but yoga allowed me the space to not think for an entire hour, and walk out feeling uplifted with far less problems than I walked into the class with. I started to realise that there was more to yoga than just the physical practice. Asana means ‘seat for meditation’, so the various poses or ‘asanas’ in a yoga class are primarily to ‘still’ or cause cessation of the activity of the mind so a vinyasa class is a moving meditation.
Through focus on the breath and the tiny detail in every pose, we are able to achieve stillness of the mind. Of course, there are so many physical benefits – yoga stimulates the organs and energy channels within the body in a way no other form of exercise does, assisting with detoxifying the body, improving flexibility and strength. Asana allowed me to learn about my body of course, but also my mind – finding my edge; which is the place of comfortable discomfort in every pose and observing how my mind reacts in those situations. I learned that I have a tendency to not listen to my body – to push hard and take the hardest option even when I’m tired, that I was (and of course even as a teacher now am still) fearful of some poses….you know, the ones where you conveniently need a drink and check out for a few moments to avoid the pose or to distract yourself from what’s really going on!
Yoga has taught me a lot (and is still teaching me a lot) about my mind and my body. I can tell the difference now between real pain and just discomfort. That on the other side of discomfort is growth – whether that is physically through an extra inch in a forward fold or mentally by overcoming a fear of balancing on my head or my hands.
Yoga has made me challenge myself in so many other areas of my life… knowing that facing discomfort – whether that is having a difficult conversation with someone, saying no to something I don’t want to do, or trying something new (rock climbing anyone?). So, I hear you wonder that is mind and body, but how does the soul fit into all this? For me that fell into place more recently…I feel 100% alive in a yoga class, totally connected to who I really am, but I’m not going to preach to everyone about what a spiritual experience yoga is. That is for you to experience and find out for yourself, or not and simply enjoy the incredible experience for your mind and body. Have faith in the yoga to do its job! It really works if you let it.