Sipping water after a sweaty & challenging power yoga class, wondering what it is that keeps making me drag myse lf out of bed at 5am for this class... I think there are more reasons than I first realized. The benefits that yoga is creating in my life, on and off my mat, are helping to shape this season of my life. I am so grateful.
Yoga makes me aware of my body.
When I'm on my mat, I breathe deeply, and I pay attention to how those breaths feel. I can tell to specifically where the tension in my body is resting, which hip is higher, which shoulder is stronger. I can feel all the muscles of my core working together. The sweat dripping down my face makes me aware of my skin and all the sensations it feels. I can tell how much work my feet and legs do, holding me up all day.
When I'm off my mat, some of that awareness continues. It's obvious when I need a break from the computer, when my neck or eyes are tired. Sometimes I can tell I've been holding my breath, or sitting to the side. There are times when a short stretch or body scan are enough to "reset" myself and allow for greater focus or energy.
Yoga forces me out of my head and into my heart.
I spend so much time thinking. All of the time, really. My brain is continually planning, organizing, creating, making mental maps, keeping lists, processing or sharing information... and getting it to slow down is SO difficult for me! When I'm on my mat, there's no space to think about any of that. Instead I breathe, I move, and I see what my heart says. Often a mantra will unfold or a phrase/idea will get stuck in my head that maybe I was just supposed to have that day.
When I'm off my mat, that idea will stick with me and give me a new sense of intention or comfort. I leave the mat able to face the day/week/next moves without all the mental clutter, and with a little bit more clarity.
Yoga makes me feel powerful.
When I am on my mat, pushing the physical limits of what my body can do excites me. I like to feel strong. Even when I modify a pose or flow slower than the person next to me, I know I am working to my full capacity and with control. There is power in that for me. It's like I work up all the strength and power that's been within me all along, and let it radiate out in the fullest expression I am capable of. I've never felt that anywhere else. Even when it's difficult or uncomfortable, I know that it's temporary, and that for a few moments I can handle quite a lot.
Then, when I'm off my mat, I remember how strong I was and the work I put in. I remember the sweat, and the shaking arms, and the legs that almost couldn't stand any longer, and I think, that power is inside of me. It's in me all the time. (It's in you all the time, too, even when we don't always feel it.) The more I practice, the more I remember. At the times I feel weak, I scrounge some of that power back up. Even when it's difficult or uncomfortable, I know that it's temporary, and that for a few moments I can handle quite a lot in life, too.
Yoga teaches me to be gentler.
Sometimes, when I'm on my mat, I can't physically do everything available in a practice; it's simply not available to ME (yet, anyway). I have to be kind to myself in these moments. In paying attention to how my body and breath feel as I move, I learn to take what I need - a deeper stretch, a fuller exhale, a sip of water, a forced smile so that I remember I enjoy it. I learn to guard my thoughts, hearing myself say, "You can't do it," and replying, "That's okay. You're doing your best."
When I'm off my mat, I try to be a little gentler, too. I try to breathe before I speak to others, and to speak kinder. I try to pause before I react. I try to allow difficulties to come and go and pass without too much weight. I keep repeating the word TRY because I'm still learning, and still growing.
Yoga challenges me to grow.
When I'm on my mat, I'm making progress. I feel myself hop a little higher, sink a little lower, hold a little longer, smile a little more... It's easier to rest and be still than it used to be (although still not so easy for me). I never thought I'd be making 6am classes and enjoying them, but here we are. It's building discipline.
When I'm off my mat, I like to believe that I am growing in all these ways: awareness, intuition, strength, control, gentleness, peacefulness... I hope that I continue to grow.
The bright light inside of me sees & honors the big, bright light inside of you.