Tonight I finished my last class of a 12 week beginner yoga series. I’ve always liked yoga fine, and if I go to class consistently I feel wonderful, but I knew I could love yoga if I felt like I knew what I was doing. Enter beginner yoga class.
We spent a whole class learning about yoga etiquette (never step over anyone else's mat), the uses for various props, and how to properly breath, sit and stand. It was terrific. Following the rules is important to me, and feeling like I didn’t really know what the rules were kept me from truly enjoying yoga classes.
It only took me a couple weeks to feel comfortable in the class, as well as other yoga classes. But each week as the days went by after the Monday night class things I learned about practicing yoga became relevant to life in general. This seems to happen to everyone, but I was skeptical that it would happen for me. I only wanted the exercise and to follow the rules, after all.
Three things come immediately to mind when I think of the yoga lessons that have seeped into my non-yoga life.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Of course I know this. It’s one of my personal commandments and I am reminding myself of this phrase constantly. But yoga class taught me to put this phrase into practice. I get more enjoyment from yoga class - and running at the gym, and participating in meetings, and bringing an appetizer to share to a party - if I focus on the task at hand rather than what everyone else is doing. Yoga made this easy. If I was busy comparing my tree pose to the person next to me, I would literally fall over. I would find myself in a meeting thinking “I hope I didn’t sound stupid. My point wasn’t nearly as clear as that guy’s…” and suddenly remember that I might fall over. Or in this case miss an important point in a meeting because I’m comparing myself to others.
If something doesn’t feel right, get assistance.
This might be the most obvious point that hit home for me. The yoga instructor had us get comfortable with all sorts of props during class. She taught that if ever a pose felt a little off, find a prop to assist yourself in doing the pose correctly in a way that felt comfortable. The reminder that there’s usually a pretty simple solution to making things “feel right” was appreciated. Are you always cold? Bring an extra layer. Are you uncomfortable sitting in your desk chair? Find something to sit on to prop you up into a more comfortable position. Are you feeling out of sorts with a friend? Figure out way and have a kind and honest conversation about it. It’s fine to get assistance when something feels off. That way we can focus on the stuff that matters.
You don’t have to be moving fast to be working hard.
Sometimes yoga was hard. Like challenging workout hard where you’re not quite sure where the muscles that are sore even existed before you found yourself unable to walk normally the next day. From someone who is used to running, step aerobics or zumba, I was surprised that I could have worked my muscles so hard without a ton of forward motion. The same thing applies to other work. Sometimes the hardest tasks involve slow momentum and lots of deep, intentional thought. These are the challenges that are slow and take time, but they’re still hard work. You wouldn’t get the same results, the best possible results, by working fast.
I’m sad my beginner yoga class is over, but I’m looking forward to what’s next. I’ve signed up for a couple more yoga series classes to get me through to the new year. I can’t wait to see what new realizations these classes will bring.
Questions: Do you practice yoga? Do you find the lessons spill over into your everyday life?