Recently, I was asked this question in the context of someone who is actively trying to pay attention to her habits and patterns that are not serving her. So, I jotted these down as a reminder for all of us. The How Yoga Transforms Your Body Image is great but here is what I love…
Here are 7 reasons why yoga rocks:
- Hatha Yoga. Ha= sun and tha= moon. Multiple times a week, I talk in classes and to students about masculine & feminine energy. We investigate our do-do-do mentality and we encourage one another to be-be-be. From the VERY root of the word, Hatha, we have an understanding that there is a of balancing out that must occur for wellness, health and peace to thrive. I also sometimes call these the sun/moon energies and I LOVE how they appear in our body, mind, spirit, food, activity and intensity of relationships to others and self. They are present in so many ways in all areas of our life! We learn the “ease and effort” in every pose, in every breath and we then take that with us into our lives ( hopefully!). I wrote a whole chapter on this in my book, Delight: Eight Principles for Living With Joy and Ease called, ACTIVATE.
- Mindfulness. Our practice shows us the ways in which our minds race and run and chatter at us all day long. We start to pay attention to the mind by breathing into the body, slowly, mindfully awakening that we are not our thoughts.
- Insight. Our practice gives us insight into the habits in our body, mind and spirit, which affect ALL areas of our life. This goes from how we experience ( or avoid) physical pain of a more intense posture or shape, to how we beat ourselves up if we fall or lose or focus, to how we praise ourselves for being “perfect” in a pose, to how we compare ourselves to others. All the questions that we ask in yoga about self compassion and care can be applied to life off the mat. AND if we bring back the concept of sun/moon into each pose- let’s investigate the ways we bring this to our practice (and our life!). Are we SO focused on “doing it ” all, on being the “best”, on pushing our bodies and striving OR are we so lethargic with our practice and commitment that we have a hard time building strength because of a lack of drive. We need both. One is not better than the other. These energies compliment one another and when we practice yoga consistently over time- we begin to pay attention to how this all works in our own unique expression. ** PLEASE NOTE. I do believe that in our current yogic climate that people can “practice yoga” for many, many years and stay totally comfortable with either too much sun or too much moon energy. The importance of a teacher who KNOWS you , your body, your life, your history is of utmost importance to be able to notice and reflect this in your practice. If you don’t have a teacher like this- you can reflect on the questions above. Have a conversation with your local teachers or fellow yogis and get super curious about your habits, history and intentions with practice.
- Balance. Our yoga practice invites us to play with balance on and off the mat. We get to PHYSICALLY balance and breathe, breathe, breathe and try to let go of the fact that balance is HARD and that some days we fall over! Some days the kids are sick! Some days we stand up straight ( get a lot done at the office) and some days we just can’t possibly hold one more posture. Balance ( alignment and breath) are and have always been part of our life, that’s why they are built into the classical sequences. Yogis get to practice making GOOD choices for their body, mind and spirit and we get to practice discernment in our lives through physical experiences! What a gift! This is also why we use our practice as an offering to our lives, as a guide to the bigger mission and vision of our experience here. The great news is that as humans, we have ALWAYS been “working ” on this balance thing. And did you ever notice when you flow with your breath in a standing pose, drop ego, drop perfection, that suddenly you are ONE with your being? You feel the sway, gentle, you breath from head to toe and feel the ALIVENESS of the pose. I imagine you have had this in other areas of your life. Writing, painting, swimming, running, rowing, drawing- whatever your creative thing is that gets you IN THE FLOW- we replicate on the yoga mat, in our balancing postures. My dear, if you DO NOT have something in your life that brings you into a state of mental and physical flow – can you please email me so we can talk? I’d love to help you find that- truly- it’s the magical glittery wholeness of life and I want you to have it.
- Reflection. Our practice requires reflection ( forward folds) as a way to check out the inner landscape of our current state of emotions and presence. Yogis can’t hide. All the feelings, all the doubts, all the joys and all the sorrows of being human are right here for us to feast on. Our physical practice mirrors our life. This regular check in is a way to move into and through the realities of our experience. We learn to become comfy with discomfort. WHAT A LIFE SKILL! Our inversions bring us a totally new perspective, a shift in view, a new way to think about something. My inversion practice brings elements of joy and play and lightness and strength and courage! Over the years I have watched myself be fearful and timid and I’ve had times in my life where I felt heavy, stuck, or unsure. An upside- down practice ( even just legs up the wall!) bring a sense of peace, of creativity and of “I’m okay”, that helps not only with our physical body but also with our ability to go with the flows of life. Inversions help our minds be less rigid, fixed or controlling.
- Strength. Our backbends OPEN OUR HEART, strengthen our authentic vulnerable selves and whisper” truth, love, courage, strength”. They strengthen our spine which strengths our hearts, our being, our sense of self. Oh man, I remember early on – I drew my shoulder blades together lifted my heart and was so afraid of exposing myself, my heart breaking wide open to pain and suffering of my past- and yet AT THE SAME time, all of a sudden realizing that I could do it! I could support myself! I could lift up and out and expand the collar bones and feel empowered in my body. That was something I NEVER felt until I met yoga.
- Rest. Our practice tells us to rest. To lay down like it’s the end and then curl up, just like you started in the womb, and to realize that in this moment, in this breath, you start again. This wisdom and symbolism for WHY we should show up to practice, this reminder of birth and death is right here on the tips of our fingers, on each breath. This is all passing us by. This is all a moment in time. This is just the cycle. And every time, just like magic, I remember why I practice, why I come back each day and do it again.
P.S. I love getting these types of questions because then I get to go on and on about how important and beautiful the practices are. I get to map out how everything overlaps and integrates and how brilliant the ancient wisdom is. It blows my mind that so many of the teachings are STILL RELEVANT to modern life. I get to clarify and remind myself why I love to live a yogic lifestyle and how profoundly it is changed my life, stress level, career path and deepened my relationships. Have a yoga question? Send it on over!