“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”
– The Bhagavad Gita
I love this quote. There’s something about it that deeply resonates with me and it’s the reason I teach this wonderful practice called yoga. However, it took me a long time to figure out that yoga was much more than just a physical practice. In fact, when I first started practicing yoga I thought it was all about getting a skinny body and becoming more flexible. If I wasn’t sweaty by the end of the class then, in my mind, I hadn’t worked hard enough. I pushed my body into shapes that it didn’t always want to go in and I always took the most “advanced” option if offered by the teacher. I continued on like this for several years, using yoga as a means for getting a good workout.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with using yoga as a means of working out but you’re missing a trick if you think that’s all its good for. As I tell my students, yoga is a work-in rather than a work-out. Meaning that we use the physical poses and the breath to quieten the mind and reconnect back with our inner most selves. Most people come to yoga as a means of exercise, yes that’s true, but they are usually also searching for something more. They are seeking a practice that will help them relax, de-stress and most importantly find some sense of inner peace.
Our lives have become dominated by technology, the internet being one of the best developments of our lifetime, which has lead the way for social media and has allowed us to access a wealth of knowledge and connect with friends and family across the globe, all at the touch of a button. We really are the most “connected” generation on the planet and yet the most disconnected to the one relationship that will span our lifetime; our relationship with ourselves.
Somewhere along the way we forgot to connect with ourselves. We have become so pre-occupied with climbing the social ladder and staying ahead of the times that we have lost sight of looking after and connecting back in with ourselves. Our health and wellbeing is of upmost importance and while I know it can be challenging to give yourself some “me time” you really can’t put a price on its value.
That’s where yoga comes into play. For me, yoga is my refuge. It’s the one place where I can find some peace from my busy life. My time on my mat is precious and sacred, it’s a place where I can let go of my day, let go of any worries and find a moment of stillness to just be.
It’s a way of checking in with myself. It may sound silly, but how often do you ask yourself how you’re doing? I’m guessing probably not a lot, if at all. We spend so much of our time giving to others, at work and at home, that we often neglect taking care of ourselves.
When I tell people I’m a yoga teacher they usually assume that I must be the most enlightened, blissed out and serene person ever and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m impatient, temperamental, have terrible road rage and the smallest things can stress me out. But that’s precisely why I practice yoga! Yoga has taught me that I am not my thoughts. I can choose to either let my thoughts and emotions dictate how I’m feeling or I can choose to become mindful of any negative thinking patterns and let them pass by bringing myself back into the present moment.
Our thoughts have power. They have the ability to cloud our judgment and loose our sense of self if not managed correctly. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression, which in turn lead to an unhappy life. Yoga teaches us to ungrasp our thoughts to clear a path for true insight.
As someone who has experience with depression and suffers with bouts of anxiety, I know my mind can begin to spiral and stress over the most minute things and blow them way out of proportion. My yoga practice has taught me how to become aware of my thoughts and emotions and bring myself back to the present moment. It may sound cliché but yoga really has taught me how to reconnect back with my body, mind and spirit. It has helped me to find moments of peace by quietening my mind and that has been invaluable. It’s a work in progress but one that is well worth it.
Yoga is a practice of reconnecting back inward. It’s not about having a skinny body and getting into the most advanced pose and it’s not a competition or a means of comparing yourself to the person next to you in class. Yoga is a practice of feeling at home in your body in a way that is honest and rooted in the present moment. That’s why it’s called a practice. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, patience and an openness to come to your yoga practice without expectation but to simply be.
Yoga is a journey of making friends with yourself, of loving yourself and of finding inner peace. It’s the greatest journey you’ll ever take that will bring you back home to yourself. So why not give yoga a try today on International Yoga Day, and see what happens? ☺