When I started doing yoga, it was more for fitness than anything else. I already had a pretty good meditation ritual, and was fully immersed in the church, so the spiritual and mindfulness components of it weren't my main focus.
After a few sessions, though, that quickly changed. Over the course of the year, I've tried a few variations of yoga — particularly vinyasa, bikram, and yoga nidra. And all of them provided a life lesson that I plan to keep with me for years to come:
There’s a sequential flow for everything.
I began my yoga journey with vinyasa. I downloaded an app on my Apple TV that would allow me the space and comfort of starting this journey in my living room. Vinyasa yoga is a style that relies on the flow and sequence from one pose to the next. This means, there's a sequential order to every pose — both with breathing and with body movement. I didn't realize that at first; I felt that I could get to Pose #3 without doing Pose #2. Throughout the at-home session, I proved myself wrong. If I took a break during Pose #2, I'd have to still do Pose #2 to make transitioning into Pose #3 easier.
The fluidity of my body relied on successfully completing each pose in order.
After each session, I reflected on that reality, and connected it directly back to life. So often, we try to skip step 2 of our process to get to step 3. We try to rush through our journey, thinking that doing so will get us there quicker. In reality though, it'll only get us there unprepared. There is a sequential flow for everything in our lives and for us to make it through with our fullest, best selves, we must recognize and honor this.
I can get through anything.
Bikram yoga was the most challenging for me. Between the excessive heat and the sweaty palms, it was hard to maintain the poses. 15 minutes into this session, and I was already over it. Drenched in sweat and pushing the limits with my body, I felt defeated. But I didn't start this session to stop a quarter of the way through. I was determined to complete this session and I did all I could to do so. I took breaks when needed, did modified poses if the originals were too challenging, and solicited help from the instructor to perfect my form. I was dedicated to not only finishing, but finishing well. Not because I had to, but because I knew I could.
If we navigate our everyday lives with this same energy we could achieve everything we set out to. Once we recognize that all we need to complete something is the gall to keep at it, we're able to position ourselves in the posture of persistence, patience, and push-through that we need to make it through.
Little things matter.
When I solicited help from the instructor, he provided minor tips and adjustments that made all the difference. Though it felt I was far away from mastering the pose, his minor tweaks proved that I wasn't as far as I thought. Twisting my body a little to the right, heightening my chest, etc. helped me position myself into a pose that I previously struggled with.
Small adjustments made big changes.
I immediately thought about how to apply this to my life: What small modifications could I make in my life to provoke big, lasting change? I recognized that so many "little things" can make a big difference. Not all life-changing moments are based on big decisions. In fact, it's the culmination of smaller decisions and small blessings that usher in peace, prosperity, and life-changing possibilities. Things as simple as turning your phone off when you sleep, or being kind to a stranger can present you with peace and opportunity, respectively, that you may have never considered. As we navigate our everyday lives, let's not ignore the small changes we can make to improve our lives.
Let your mind rest.
Yoga Nidra proved to be the most relaxing form of yoga for me. Using audio a friend of mine received from a yoga retreat in Bali, her and I laid on my living room floor in full submission to this guided meditation. Yoga Nidra focuses on relaxation and inner peace, so during the entirety of this meditation, we were laying on our backs with our eyes closed. As the instructions played from the audio, I realized that much of what we were told to do was to mentally release the toxins of our day. By the end of the session, we were both asleep.
So often, we let life's trials over-consume us. We worry about today, we worry about yesterday, and we worry about tomorrow – none of which does us any good (word to Matthew 6:34). Yoga Nidra forced us onto the floor in a posture of full relaxation, and walked us through releasing those worries from our minds, and releasing the tension it causes from our bodies.
This level of mindfulness reminded me of how important it is to rest – both physically and mentally.
Many times, our ideas of rest may be just about the physical; a lazy day on the couch, binge watching Netflix, still entertaining the many thoughts on our mind; or, a day out on the beach reading a book that we hope will help us fix our lives. This yoga technique, however, promoted the full rest of the body and the mind.
It inspired us, not to just rest our physical, but to fully release everything clouding our mental as well. It encouraged us to say "hello" and "goodbye" to those things in one breath. Obsessing over things you cannot change, or thinking about what happened yesterday won't give you an 'up' in life. Sometimes we should just come to the floor (or the altar) and let things go.
Mindfulness doesn't always have to be about thinking, sometimes it can be about consciously not thinking.
Featured image by Getty Images
Energize Your Mornings With These 5 Simple Yoga Poses – Read More
4 Of The Biggest Misconceptions About Starting A Yoga Practice – Read More
What Self-Care Looks Like To Yogi Dr. Chelsea Jackson – Read More