Before I hop into yoga talk, I must share a picture of my best friend for this past weekend.
Meet Frazier, the most adorable, yet slightly mischievous puppy I’ve ever met. My friends had to go to Chicago for the weekend and they knew just who to call for dog sitting! I definitely miss my dog from NY, and I cannot get a dog in Omaha until I’m fully settled. So, this was the perfect job for me!
Frazier and I spent the weekend exploring a different part of Omaha on long walks, cuddling by the fireplace and rolling in the leaves (well, he did). It was nice to have a pup back in my life! My friends may have thought I was doing them a favor, but I felt like they did me a favor…so last night, while Frazier napped, I baked them some brownies as a thank you.
Hopefully, the brownies will show them that I can watch Frazier whenever they want. Hint hint.
Now, it’s yoga time.
Way back in 2009 when I was living in Chicago and freelancing for an online publication, I wrote a story called “Yoga for the Non-Yogi.” For about a month, I went around the city of Chicago trying every type of yoga in existence (vinyasa, bikram, power, hatha, hot, etc.) to see which class would be most suitable for an inflexible non-yogi like myself. In the end, I discovered that yoga wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought and that I was incorrect about some of my previous misconceptions. For instance, while there was the traditional “namaste” at the end of each class, the rest of each class was relatively normal and not packed with the yoga-babble, Zen chanting that I envisioned.
(Sweaty me after a hot yoga class…)
Yet, in the 5 years since then, until now, I had probably taken about 5 yoga classes – maybe 1 time a year. When I was living in NYC, my job kept me busy, leaving me a small amount of time for exercising. I preferred to de-stress via running and high-intensity cardio classes, so my yoga commitment went by the wayside.
But, with the start of the new year, a VERY new beginning and a little extra time on my hands, I decided to explore the whole yoga deal again…
I’ve aimed to go to one class a week, because let’s face it, I’ll never be a total “yogi.” I just don’t have it in me to be that Lululemon-wearing, om-chanting, Zen-master yoga girl. It’s not my style.
(Yoga selfie time! Insert eye roll.)
Yet, I have left each class feeling refreshed and even a little bit, dare I say it, calmer. I’ve even learned a thing or two from my yoga classes this year, and yep, you guessed it, I’m about to show you how my awkward yoga classes have taught me extremely philosophical life lessons.
1. You have to become imbalanced before you can become balanced.
In one of my recent classes, the teacher requested that we close our eyes the entire class. This is where I discovered that vision is required to help balance yourself. Anyway, I definitely struggled throughout the class and had to open my eyes several times to avoid falling on the person next to me.
Somehow, I made it through the class, and then the teacher wrapped it up with a brilliant life lesson like she always does. She pointed out how practicing balance is important, but in order to really feel any balance, it’s important to experience the feeling of imbalance as well.
Obviously, this is true in life. Right now might be an “imbalanced” time in my own life, but once everything comes together, I’m going to appreciate and understand the balance so much more.
2. You think everyone cares, but actually, they don’t give a sh**.
I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that one of the things that always kept me away from yoga was the fact that all those all-star yogis would be secretly judging me as they Zenned out in their perfect handstands.
In actuality, nobody gives a sh**. Yoga is all about “personal journeys” and “self-discovery,” and while I sometimes find it all a little cheesy, what this means is that the people who are really good at it are NOT staring at you. Trust me. They’re totally focusing on all that breathing and inner peace.
In fact, the only people that notice you suck are probably they people that suck with you. So, don’t worry, you’re in good company.
I suppose it’s similar in life as well. Sometimes we all get a bit self-conscious about how the world perceives us. But really, the people that you admire the most have no time to judge you. They are too busy focusing on achieving their own goals and dreams. The only people judging you are those unhappy with their own lives. So, don’t let fear of others’ opinions stop you from trying something new or veering off the path.
3. Your ego is your biggest enemy.
If you look around a yoga class, most of the time, everyone is doing something different. This is because there are varying levels of nearly every single pose. During one of my classes, the teacher wisely reminded us to start small and “not let our egos get in the way.”
In other words, don’t break your back doing a headstand just because you think you’re above the easier moves. I have had no problem sticking with the basic moves during yoga. If I keep going, maybe I’ll get to those fancy handstands, but until then, I’m comfortable learning and growing.
I think sometimes we do things in our lives because we think we “should” or because we’re “too good” for something a little more basic. It’s important to check in with your ego and make sure it’s not getting in the way. For example, when I start my new job (fingers crossed it will happen any day now), there is just no way that I’ll understand everything off the bat. Whether it’s a new industry or a different field, there will be a learning curve involved. I’m always the girl that asks a ton of questions. No sense in letting my ego stop me from learning the right way.
4. Stop Talking, Quiet your Mind and LISTEN
Admittedly, all of that “inhale/exhale” mumbo jumbo is sometimes lost on me. But, when I really think about it, I understand how the goal is to help us become more in touch with our body movements.
It actually kind of makes sense. At the end of class, we usually have to lay down for a good five minutes and just “quiet our mind.”
While I usually find my mind wandering to my latest job interview or freelance project, I try my best to discard all of the thoughts. Instead, I focus on what my instructor is saying, because many times it’s actually quite insightful.
So, how does this relate to life? Well, first off, we all need some time to relax, recharge and unwind. It’s very important, no matter how busy you are, to find an activity that allows you to do so. For me, it’s watching embarrassingly horrible reality tv, while eating ice cream. You may laugh, but seriously, it is when my mind is most quiet.
Secondly, I’ve long thought the skill of active listening is one of the most important skills a girl can have. Do you find yourself waiting for a person to finish a story so that you can tell your OWN story? Guess what, that person can probably tell. You think you’ll impress he or she with your story, but what is actually most impressive is someone who truly listens, takes it all in and takes the time to think about the right response.
You would be surprised what you can learn when you really start to listen.
5. Life is a Journey, Not a Destination
Oh, please forgive me for using a lyric from Aerosmith to close out this post. For the record, it’s actually a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In class, the teacher often refers to “your yoga practice,” implying that no matter how skilled each person is (or isn’t), we are all constantly in practice. You may be able to suspend yourself in mid-air with your body twisted like a pretzel, while sipping on some coconut water and simultaneously saying “Om”, and you STILL have something new to learn.
The purpose of yoga isn’t really to become “good” at something. it is to constantly improve your flexibility, balance and inner peace and thus learn more about yourself along the way.
I suppose I don’t even need to draw the parallel, but I will. I’m definitely guilty of always looking ahead and trying to get to the next milestone. For example, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with finding a job. However, when I look back, I may regret not living in the present a little bit more and seizing the opportunity to focus on myself and my passions while I finally had the time. And admittedly, even if “30 is the new 40″ I cannot help but feel a little anxious about being behind on the whole family deal.
If I were able to remind myself on a daily basis that these things are all a part of my “journey” in life, I would be able to find a purpose in everything that is happening right now. It may not be easy to do, but I know I’ll benefit from changing my perspective in the long run.
On that note, I’m off to take the pup for a walk – now here is a guy who knows how to roll with the punches/leaves and live in the present!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What is one lesson you have learned from yoga?