Yoga permeates everything. The more you practice the more it insinuates itself into your life. Into your you, your Self. Your relationship with yoga doesn’t necessarily begin as something so subtly profound but with regular practice, it will often get there.
When I began practising it was because I wanted to be more flexible and stronger, and then to learn to manipulate my breath. Yoga was something that I did because I like what it meant in my body and I enjoyed the community around it. I know people start for many different reasons, and some feel the more subtle effects of yoga immediately. For me it wasn’t like that. It took me a while to start appreciating yoga beyond the physical joy of moving my body and to notice the ways it helps me grow.
Slowly though, things started to change. I started to notice that yoga was having an effect on my life outside of classes. In my second year of university I realised that if I can get up and go to yoga classes consistently I can get up and go to my lectures too. I would often make excuses for myself not to go to lectures- too tired, too hungry, had to finish that essay. Whatever it was I realised that the real excuse was I was scared about not knowing as much as everyone else.
Knowing that I went to yoga classes 2 or 3 times a week without fail, without fearing what I would find on the mat gave me the impetuous to go to my seminars and lectures with confidence, not overwhelmed by my fear of being put on the spot.
Yoga was really becoming part of my life. When I moved to Belfast and didn’t really connect with anyone, I found a wonderful yoga school (http://www.abhyasayogabelfast.com/). Going to classes almost daily gave me something to focus on apart from my lack of friends. Going to those yoga classes, giving myself space everyday to focus inside and forget external distractions helped me become more focused at work and to more freely enjoy the time I was getting to spend with my father.
When I started my yoga teacher training it was an accumulation of everything yoga had already shown me that got me there. A couple of years previously I had realised that I’d really like to do a yoga teacher training but I had also accepted that I probably wouldn’t ever do one. My fear of standing up in front of people and talking was almost crippling. I wasn’t ‘good enough’ at yoga. I couldn’t share that much of myself with total strangers. I would be laughed out of town if I ever told anyone that I wanted to teach yoga.
Fortunately a few more years of regular practice under my belt and I was starting to realise how yoga was helping me overcome some of my deep rooted beliefs about myself. After some gentle encouragement from my teacher I decided, instead of running away as I once would have, to apply and see what happened. I got accepted, and just that was a huge boost to my self confidence and then I tried not to think about it too much until it was time to go.
During the teacher training the self-facing side of yoga that I had come to love was multiplied 10 fold. Over the month I let god of some of my most closely held stories about who I am and what I’m capabable of.
The lessons I learnt on my mat, in classes and workshops translated directly into my life. My practice affected the way I thought about myself and therefore all my decisions. I realise now that my practice of yoga touches every facet of my life because it touches the deepest parts of my Self.
Asana, pranayama and meditation are the building blocks of my yoga practice but in truth it reaches much further. When I remember to stop and breathe when I feel myself getting overwhelmed. When I remember that I am capable. When I push myself to achieve something that I thought I couldn’t. When I’m about to get annoyed with my boyfriend and I remember ahimsa, non-harm, live and let live. When I don’t compare myself to others. When I don’t eat animals. When I listen more than I speak. These and so many more are all gifts from my yoga practice.
To me living a ‘yogic lifestyle’ is not about getting up before sunrise and drinking kombucha (although I love kombucha). To me having a living yoga practice means doing my asana, pranayama, meditation and allowing yoga to help me grow. To help me love myself and love others with respect. To recognise those things that don’t serve me and to let them go. Working through challenges on my mat encourages in me the integrity to work through challenges in my life.
Sometimes yoga weaves so subtly through your decisions that it is not always clear how transformation occurs. But transformation is inevitable and yoga practice can help you transform, progress and grow. Yoga can, in my experience, help you find inside yourself the tools to deal with, often difficult, periods of transformation. Yoga becomes life.
What have you noticed about the way yoga has shown up off the mat in your life?