Photo I took of my local yoga studio
As a very young child my parents enrolled me in gymnastics classes, which I’m sure my educator mother knew was a great way to develop gross motor skills for my little arms and legs. After winning a few competitions in our town, my 5 year old self imagined being the next Mary Lou Retton. However, the next year my mom gave me the choice: gymnastics or piano? I chose piano and three decades, plus a degree in music later, I’m thankful I made this choice since playing for pleasure at home and at church is a part of my identity. (Yet because I’m so petite, I might have made a pretty good gymnast…)
Maybe it’s because I honed my sense of balance and flexibility at a young age, or maybe it’s just the way my body was designed, but when I discovered yoga in my early 20s, I naturally took to this practice.
When I accepted the offer to become an academic librarian in Oklahoma, I met a knowledgeable yoga instructor, also the nurse practitioner at our university, and began attending her classes at the local studio. Eight years and a series of teachers have come and gone but the studio remains a safe haven for me as I roll out my mat, smile or say hello to others in the class, and allow myself an hour weekly to breathe, stretch, and practice some quality self-care.
Last week I attended my first yoga class of 2018 and it prompted me to think about the lessons I’ve learned and why yoga remains an important part of my life.
Eat a light snack a little while before class. There’s nothing worse than the distraction of thinking about food when you’re in warrior one.
The more often I go to class (and practice at home), the more comfortable I am with being able to naturally understand the directions and be in the moment, rather than having to watch the instructor the entire time.
Judgement free zone
There’s no room to judge myself or others. I’m only there for myself, so I don’t have to be concerned about the person beside me. And unless I need correction from the instructor to not harm my body, if I make a mistake, chances are I can just do the opposite movement the next round.
It’s easy to forget the restorative nature of a deep, cleansing breath. Not only does this provide necessary oxygen to the body, but the simple pattern of breathe in…breathe out creates a calming, centering rhythm to focus solely on this one thing.
Listen to my body
I am a living human being, so my body is going to respond differently each time I practice. Only I can judge when I need to push myself versus be okay with the basic or modified version of a certain pose.
Don’t give up
There are times my body screams to release from a strength-building pose (chair, anyone?), but muscles and determination are built when the going gets tough.
Sometimes the instructor shares a more universal thought or passage, but as a Christian I often take these broad sentiments and apply them with Scripture I’ve committed to memory, or turn my thoughts to prayer for deeper spiritual growth.
Make the choice
Like a lot of things worth doing, it’s sometimes hard to pull away from whatever is pressing, but after class I never regret the effort it took to choose yoga over something else that will still be waiting for me later.
Is yoga a routine part of your life? If so, what lessons have you learned from your series of practices?