When I first started doing yoga, I approached it the same way I did any new task, with a fierce tenacity to be the best at it. I watched other students in the class doing headstands and splits and set my sights on achieving their status. I went to classes more and more often, I tried to rush the process to hurry and “get good at it.” I would see how a pose was “supposed” to look, and I would do my best to get my own pose to look the same way. My yoga was all about ego. I thought I really had not “done yoga” if I did not exit class dripping with sweat.
At the time, I was going to a studio that seemed to almost promote this attitude. The instruction was geared towards “pushing yourself” and I felt the pressure to try and get into positions and poses that I may have not been quite ready for. I was rarely adjusted by an instructor in a pose, so I made the assumption that I was doing it right.
I cannot say the entire fault laid with that particular studio. It may have been the way I was interpreting their teachings, or maybe it was the phase of life I was still in, where I thought I always had to be the best at whatever it was I was doing. Whether it was my attitude, or the instruction that changed, something finally kicked in.
I realized I was doing it all wrong.
Once I started going to my current yoga studio, there was a shift in how I approached yoga. My studio Inner Evolution Yoga (IEY) takes a more holistic approach to yoga and I learned the emphasis on not just the body, but also the mind and even the heart.
This shift has been life changing for me.
I sloooooowed my practice down a great deal. I realized that there were so many poses I thought I was doing correctly, but when an instructor would come around and adjust me, I saw I had been doing it wrong for years. I was in such a rush to make it look a certain way that I never took the time to work on all the steps it took to get to that point. This taught me a great deal of humility and how important it was not to skip steps along the way.
The instructors at IEY have also imparted the importance of “taking your yoga off the mat.” In essence, I have understood this to mean, approaching challenges apart from yoga, the same way I do in yoga. Important questions that I have learned to ask myself in trying situations:
- Do I shy away from something simply because it looks hard?
- Do I try to force things to go from 1-10, without first perfecting the processes in the middle?
- Can I be at peace even amongst discomfort?
- Can I be present simply in the moment I am in, without thinking about the past or the future?
Facing these questions has helped me deal with the grief and emotional upset of losing my dad, last year. It has helped me work through anxiety and stress that I was handling in unhealthy ways before. Yoga, more than anything, has made me realize that I was rarely appreciating the present. My mind was always racing and focused on “what needed to be done next,” that I was not even relishing my present moments. It was taught me to slow down and find the peace and beauty of whenever and wherever I may be.
This quote from the article truly captures what yoga has meant to me: “It will bring you to that tranquility that resides within to enable you to weather any kind of emotional storm from within or any life challenge from without.”
The benefits of slowing down my yoga also extend to the physical. I find more in each pose when I do it the best of my own ability, not someone else’s. I have found many benefits in the Slow, Deep Stretch class that have helped my body heal from the effects of running and I learned, you do not have to leave class drenched in sweat to have truly done yoga.
I may never do a handstand. I may never grow past using assistance blocks in certain poses. In 10 years, there may still be poses that I have to sit out. I am at peace with this. And, to be at peace with anything is a huge accomplishment for my once chaotic mind.