My daughter woke up at o’dark thirty – that’s country-talk for too-damn-early-for-toddlers – and I was getting breakfast all situated. I was feeling kinda jazzy and decided to turn to [what was then] FitTV, and started flipping through the TV Guide to see what shows they’d be offering. That’s when I saw it.
Namaste Yoga. A yoga show that aired 7 days a week called Namaste Yoga became my newest conquest. I mean, I wanted an activity outside of cardio and weights that would allow me to enjoy myself while still developing some new ability in the end… and yoga would, apparently, be it.
The show would air the same episode all day – once at 8:30, again at 12:30 and a third time at 6PM – and I decided to capitalize on the opportunity. I’d merely watch the first airing, practice during the second airing and go full in during the third airing. Why not?
That was two years ago. Several seasons, at least four different variations of yoga practice and countless yoga books later… I think I’m made a better woman for it. I definitely know I’m a much more fit woman – both physically and emotionally – for it.
Embracing yoga taught me something about committing to my body that I never had the opportunity to learn, before. Whenever I “took a break” from yoga, I came back to it rusty. Stopping caused me to lose not only the ability I’d developed, but the benefits of the ability that I’d developed. If I, as a beginner, learned how to hold the plank position for longer than thirty seconds, then take off from yoga for a month? Coming back to it and trying to get that 30 seconds in while holding the pose… is a hard lesson to learn. The only way I could see maintained and continued development of my body was through choosing to commit to it. That commitment wouldn’t come by happenstance.
Yoga taught me perseverance. There’s no more common a feeling than when you struggle trying to get into position for a yoga pose, and you fail. Miserably. There’s only one feeling that’s better than when you struggle trying to get a pose and finally get it. That feeling? When you stop struggling with it. The number of times I’ve fallen flat on my forehead trying to get that darn crane pose down pat have finally resulted in a time where I can at LEAST stop flattening my forehead and balance a bit better. I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll effortlessly fly into position and just hang out there for a while.
Yoga taught me patience. I couldn’t just jump into it, because I’d either fail to keep up or I’d bust my tail. I had to understand that there were things I’d have to learn in order to be an effective and successful yogi. Yoga requires a certain level of strength and flexibility that doesn’t come overnight. Trying the side plank before my body was strong enough would’ve meant that I would’ve injured myself. Being patient with my body and waiting for my strength and flexibility to catch up to what I was mentally prepared for was a challenge, but it has taught me that when I reach a place of anxiety or frustration in my life… to just be patient. I’m not the only one with lessons to learn in life, and we’re all in different places as we learn those lessons.
Yoga taught me humility. Nothing – no book reading, no person “teaching” you – can prepare you for what it’s like that first time you try to get into what you consider an “easy” position, and you find out that it hurts. A lot. Nothing can prepare you for the first time you assume a pose that’s as seemingly easy as the Warrior II pose, only to find that after a few seconds, your shoulders and biceps hurt like hell because they’re not strong enough to hold your entire arm up the way you thought they were. Arrogance, in yoga, can get you embarrassed at best and hurt at worst. Approaching everything like a beginner who needs to soak up every ounce of information, no matter how many years you’ve been practicing, ensures that you pay enough attention to the small details – how is the foot turned? are you sitting on the ground or on the heel of your foot? – necessary to execute a pose properly. Approaching a pose like an expert simply because it looks easy means you’re probably missing the mechanics that make that “easy” pose a challenge, and your time and efforts are wasted simply because you thought too highly of yourself.
Yoga taught me the value of silence… and listening. Not in telling my body what I want, but in remaining silent and listening to my body. If my body tells me its not ready to balance on one leg while I hold the other in the air behind me (dancer pose)? I listen. I’m not strong enough for that yet… so I proceed with caution. Through the other principles, I learn to dutifully continue practicing my pose until I develop the strength, flexibility and trust in my abilities to get it done.
And I’ll give you a bonus one – yoga taught me how incredible the human body truly is, and that – with time – it can grow to handle almost anything you throw at it. Treat it right, and the rewards will be plentiful.
As I’m in a period of time where I’m learning how to fit more yoga into my daily routines, I’m getting back into incorporating these principles into my daily life as well. I’ve learned that approaching things in my life as a commitment that I’ve chosen has changed how I solve problems in my life. Yoga taught me the value of perseverance and never quitting. Yoga taught me to approach everything as a novice – no matter how advanced I become – because there is always something to learn. Yoga taught me how to listen to my body and not let my mind get the best of me.
Most importantly, it taught me to trust myself. It taught me to trust my commitments and my efforts, because even though the human body doesn’t produce immediate results – with anything – it will produce results. There’s no doubt about that.