Five things yoga has taught me

You don’t have to contort your body, sit in the lotus position or find your downward dog to benefit from the teachings of yoga. My inspiring yoga teacher Jocelyn drops words of wisdom into our practice that have a much wider application than yoga. Here are five.

1. The pause between breaths

In yoga we still the mind by focusing on the pause between each breath. As we take a deep breath in, pause and then a long, slow breath out, and pause – our thoughts slow down. In the stillness of the pause, we find a space between our thoughts.

In our busy lives we are constantly planning or stressing about the future or reliving past events, analysing them and finding fault. It is hard to be still and present. But this is where we need to be to feel grounded and to find our inner strength and calm.

I am always on the go, impatient for things to happen. I charge through my life as if in a race to the end. When it feels as though things have slowed down, for example, when as an independent management consultant I had a period with no work, I wasted the precious time fretting about the future. It took me some time before I learnt to be grateful for the pause. It is a time to rest and restore. We need the pause between to gather strength and inspiration for what is to come. In the depths of winter beneath the barren soil new plants are preparing for growth. Enjoy the pause. Trust that everything happens in its own time and be thankful for the opportunity to reflect and renew.

2. Where you focus your attention is where the energy will flow.

In yoga we direct our attention to a part of the body as we stretch and strengthen. Mindfully moving energy around the body is integral to yoga practice.

This message is true of all things in our life. When you understand what is important to you honour yourself by investing time in this activity. Keep focused and don’t be distracted. For example, in my quest to become a successful author I could waste my energy comparing myself to other writers, or get sucked into the noise of social media. If instead I focus my attention on turning up each and every day to write then over time my writing will improve. If something is important to you make this the focus of your attention and over time you will experience the positive energy of this consistent practice.

Photo by Lauren George on Unsplash

3. Small movements over time can have a significant impact.

When I started practicing yoga on a regular basis about seven years ago, I had a bit of a hump between my shoulders as a result of hunching over a computer for long hours. My yoga teacher noted this and encouraged me in class to expand my chest and free my shoulders. As I knelt in a heart chakra position my arms outstretched, I imagined a trickle of water flowing between my shoulder blades softening the tight muscles. Too miniscule to be detected on a daily or weekly basis but years on I can see a big improvement in my posture.

The small changes that we make to our daily routines have an impact over time. Whether that is taking the time to write every day, piano practice, meditation, a change to your diet – it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Write for fifteen or thirty minutes a day. Cut out a sweet treat. Something small that you can commit to over a long period of time. 

Think of a cruise ship headed for New York. If the direction changes by one degree the ship could end up in an entirely different destination.

4. Where you feel the most resistance is where you need to do the work.

One side of the body is always stronger or more flexible than the other and this is the side that we prefer to work with. However, it is the side where we experience the most resistance that we need to work.

Isn’t this the way in life? We love doing the things that come easy. But to grow and fulfil our potential we need to step outside of our comfort zone. It is hard learning new skills and overcoming our fear of failure but the rewards when we persevere and rise to the challenge will make it worthwhile. 

You don’t won’t to be a wonky-donkey. 

5. Yoga is not about striking fancy poses

When we come to our mat in yoga it is about who we are and requires self-awareness. It is about stilling the mind and tuning in to what our body, mind and emotions are experiencing and what we need.

Each of us is unique. We are told in yoga not to compare ourselves to others in the class, or to our previous performance. To accept where we are and work with what we have.

This has been a hard lesson for me. Always looking towards my next achievement, I drive myself hard. There have been times in my life when my impatience to get to the next stage of development led me to fool myself that I was already there. With that came disappointment and frustration. I am learning to accept where I am now with grace and gratitude. This state of mind accelerates my development as I am open to opportunities. When I understand what I need it finds its way to me.

Writing this blog, I have discovered just how much a daily yoga practice has influenced my life. It demonstrates the gradual transformation we experience with what would appear to be miniscule changes over a period of time. You don’t need to take up yoga if it isn’t your thing but I hope that in reflecting on my experience I have imparted some of the lessons that have made a difference to me.


2 thoughts on “Five things yoga has taught me

    • This blog went out on Saturday instead of Monday by mistake. I expects that’s why you missed it. It is a good reminder when we think to ourselves why bother- we may not see the difference we are achieving until we look back over a period of time. Consistency and commitment will get us there! X

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