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As you all know, I practice yoga. Recently, Alicia challenged herself (and anyone who wanted to join her) to practice at least a little bit of yoga every day. What’s great about practicing yoga is that to accomplish this task, I don’t have to attend a studio class every day. I can practice yoga with breathing, meditation, at-home practice, and studio practice.
Right around the time I took the yoga-a-day challenge, my dear friend Jen sent me “Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga,” which is a book that contains daily thoughts on the practice of yoga.
Perfect timing! I really recommend this book to anyone who practices. It gives you a little nugget of yogi wisdom each day and helps you see your practice as a daily, ongoing thing.
But maybe I should back up a bit.
I started practicing regularly in January 2012 at Nishkama Yoga. There were a lot of big things happening or coming up in my life and yoga seemed like a good way to both stay in shape and gain some peace in all the craziness. But the biggest part about practicing at Nishkama was the friend support system. Alicia and Kimberly would often practice with me and the teachers there quickly became friends as well.
Eventually, Nishkama became a home-away-from-home studio, but not some place I could manage to get to regularly. I decided to try Harmony Yoga, which is closer to home. I wasn’t sure when I started there if I actually liked practicing yoga or if I only liked it because I got to see my friends when I went.
I fell in love with Harmony: with the teachers, the vibe, the classes, all of it. And I realized that the practice was actually important to me. So what have I learned from practicing generally and from the yoga-a-day-challenge specifically?
I am stronger than I thought I was.
I am not a coordinated, athletic person. But through falling out of poses and achieving poses I started out unable to do, I have learned to feel strong and capable in my body. My biggest challenge is being strong enough to know when to stop. I was in class, in dancing warrior pose, when I felt myself injure my shoulder. Rather than stopping I thought I’d keep on going, until I ended up face down on my mat crying in pain.
I spent a week rehabbing myself until I could tentatively return to even doing down dog. Strength isn’t always about being able to do every pose. Strength is listening to your body and being responsive to your needs, even when that means doing less.
Yoga is stronger than I thought it was.
I’ll admit that for a long time, yoga was just a nice way to work out. I didn’t get as much out of the mental side of it, except that savasana provided a nice little thought time-out. But the more I practiced, the more I noticed things I heard in class seeping into my every day life. Ideas such as witnessing rather than resisting and taking time for self-care became more prevalent in my mind.
And then I had a truly amazing experience last month. I went to a class taught by someone from my past, with whom there was some baggage and awkwardness. I was hesitant about even practicing a class she was teaching, but something drew me there. As I set my intention for practice, I chose forgiveness and letting go. By the time we reached the hip openers and savasana, I found myself openly weeping. I was finally able to let go of things that weren’t serving me and that I had held on to for far too long. I think she felt it too, but even if it was just me, it was yoga that finally got me somewhere I really needed to go.
So, as I continue to try to #yogaallthelivelongday, I am reminded that life, much like yoga is a practice. We’re not at perfection, we’re learning and falling, but we’re constantly getting stronger. And there’s a lot of fun and beauty and good in the practice.
Do you practice? What have you learned from it?