When I’m on my yoga mat I’m completely vulnerable. The chaos of my life washes away and I begin to slow my breath.
My eyes flutter closed and in the darkness I inhale the strength required to get me through the next hour of practice.
I attended my first yoga class in 2014. Naively I thought it was just another work-out session like pilates. But yoga is more than a work out. It’s a ritual.
Just this morning I stepped into my yoga studio and instantly felt at peace. As I walked bare foot over the warm concrete I inhaled the beautiful scents, tied my hair up in the glowing candlelight and prepared my mat and props that would be my sacred space for the next hour.
When I started yoga I was obsessed with progress. I’d will myself to touch the floor, reach my arms further or twist just a little more. But my body wasn’t ready. I was competing — not just with myself but the others in the class. During poses I’d scan the floor and judge everyone else’s flexibility, telling myself that I could do better.
But I’ve learnt over the years that yoga isn’t a competition. In fact it’s not about flexibility or working out at all. It’s a dedication — an intentional practice that is equally about the mind and the body.
Perhaps you’ve been considering taking up yoga class but you’re afraid. Afraid of being judged in the class, of facing your fears on the mat or of discovering how inflexible you are.
I had these fears too, but sometimes we need to embrace our fears in order to overcome them.
If you’re still undecided, I’ll share a little bit with you here on why I show up to yoga class:
- It brings me clarity. As a sit on the mat with my eyes closed, taking deep breaths in and out, my mind clears as I let all my tiny thoughts float away and poof into thin air. As a morning yogi my mind is usually racing with all the things I have to complete that day. Yoga helps me slow it down and focus my energy on myself first, before diving into the day.
- It’s rewarding. Despite doing yoga for almost four years, I’m still no expert. I’ve yet to accomplish headstand and I still find arm balances a challenge. But each practice I get closer and closer, and the results are visible. One day one I couldn’t touch the floor with my legs straight. Now I can stand on my feet and straighten my legs. Visible progress keeps me going and gives me the will to continue.
- It challenges me. Yoga is not all peace and stillness. Some postures are challenging — not just for the body but also for the mind. Some days I have to will my body to continue holding a pose while my mind tells me to give up.
- It encourages me to connect. During the practice I’m listening intently to my mind and body more than ever. I’m completely tuned in and aware of where I’m hurting, where I feel relaxed and channeling my energy to those parts. Yoga has helped me get to know myself and understand my limits, strengths and weaknesses of my mind and body. For example I know my right hip is tighter than my left and my mind tends to wonder when doing balance postures.
- It provides me with a routine. Every week I attend the same class with the same teacher. This routine has helped me build yoga into my life as a regular commitment. This has made going to class easier and also allowed me to progress my rapidly as my teacher can assist with my progress.
- It’s sacred. When I’m on my mat I’m completely committed to the class and address me feelings and thoughts head on before washing them away. There’s been times I’ve cried … the mat welcomes my vulnerability. It’s where I embrace my feelings and fears head on.
Yoga is peaceful.
Our days are filled with so much noise. Whether we’re running to the office, late for a meeting or busy with household chores. Rarely are there opportunities of stillness in the day. Of quiet.
Yoga has helped me become in tune with my body and mind. I know better my limitations, strengths and weaknesses. Embracing the mat has been the best way for me to get clarity, embrace my feelings and challenge my mind and body.