- Yoga isn’t just about flexibility of the body, it teaches us to have mental flexibility. Just as some days your body may feel stiff and other days you may feel like a floating swan, some days the mind is slow and clunky and we can become rigid and narrow-minded in our thinking. Especially when we are under pressure (as so many of us are so much of the time in this modern life), we can become tunnel visioned or black-and-white in our thought processes. Some days your body might not let you do certain postures. Some days your Tree Pose might resemble that of a sapling in a tsunami; that’s ok. During your practise you adapt. You adjust your posture. You take some time to ground yourself and try again. Sometimes, you accept the fact that today is just not the day. In real life we come up against unrelenting bosses, negative environments with bad vibes, kids that won’t stop crying, technology that refuses to work, cars that won’t start and traffic that won’t move. We have to make decisions, sometimes small ones like what to have for lunch, sometimes big ones, like how much you can afford to invest in your mortgage or whether or not now is the right time to start a family. Life presents us with obstacles, choices, decisions, challenges and opportunities every day. Being able to stay energetically grounded while the world swirls around you is what yoga teaches us. Being able to bend and adapt, to adjust when we need to, to push ourselves when we can and pull back when it’s necessary is all part of what we can take off the mat.
- Resist the urge to compare! Don’t compare yourself to other people in the class, certainly don’t compare yourself to the teacher! Most of all, try not to compare yourself to your previous self and try not to compare your current practise to a previous practice.. Every time you step onto the mat is a new experience; your body is different, your mind is different, you got more or less sleep than the last time or you ate a truck-load of carbs for lunch instead of the salad you usually have. Maybe you are more or less stressed than the last time you practised. Maybe something difficult happened in your personal life. Maybe you had a bad dream and it’s played on your mind, maybe you have a deadline you didn’t have before. Conversely, maybe you are absolutely on fire today and you’re kicking ass! You slept great, you woke up and made it to work in record time, every decision you made was easy and right and everything you touched turned to gold! All of this is going to effect your yoga on the mat. Accepting where you are in the present moment for what it is and doing that without judgement, good or bad, is yoga. They say comparison is the thief of joy, and we are all guilty of it. Remember that everyone you meet is living a life you know nothing about and that the face that they are presenting to the world is often just that. Instagram is literally people’s highlight reel and in this day and age people curate every picture like they’re arranging a wing in the Louvre. Do not compare your real life to the digital life someone has created. Enjoy social media, use it to explore, use it to relax, use it to have a cheeky stalking session on that cool chick you went to school with, just don’t be under any illusion that any of it has anything to do with reality.
- Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Your yoga teacher does not have their shit together any more than you do. You guys know, I wobble and fall and laugh about it all the time. I started yoga as an adult, coming from a place of zero flexibility. I know what it’s like to feel like the most lost and confused person in the class. When I was training to be a teacher, most of the other people training with me had a background in dance or gymnastics and had been doing the splits since they could walk. I was so intimidated and felt so out of place. There are poses that I will never be able to do and now I am ok with that, because now I know that that is not what yoga is about. It may look to you guys like I have super-human mobility at times, but the vast majority of yoga teachers seem that way to me. Many people are flexible, everyone is fallible. No one has it all figured out. We are all on this journey together, trying to do the best we can with what we have and that is all we can do.
- You’ve got to be mindful of what’s going on around you. If you’re in a full class you try to position your mat to give everyone an equal chance to have the best experience possible. If you have to have your phone on you for whatever reason, you keep it on silent. You develop an awareness of the presence of other people around you. So many of us are so oblivious! We move through our lives so consumed with our own experience we don’t even realise that there are other humans all around us just trying to move through their day too. Look around you! Don’t stop in the middle of the footpath to check your phone. Look around you on public transport, offer up your seat if someone else is in need of it. Be careful with your umbrella! Look both ways before stepping out on the road. Remember that cyclists count as traffic too! Go easy on the waitress that’s under pressure. Smile at someone that looks sad. Take the headphones and the blinkers off once in a while and be a present presence in the world that is turning all around you.
- Commit to yourself. You’ve got to commit to your practice. You have to set aside the time every week to get on your mat, to nourish yourself, both mind and body. A yoga practice isn’t a fair-weather affair. Maybe you come to class several times a week, maybe you come once. You still show up for yourself in those moments and you still offer yourself a consistent opportunity for self-care, self-love and self-growth. Yoga teaches us how to show up for ourselves on a daily basis. In class, you commit to listening to your own body and your own mind, that can’t be allowed to just fly out the window the second you leave the studio. Every day in every situation you will have the opportunity to choose to do something that is either going to nourish you or drain you. Sometimes it’s not really a choice- we have obligations, we have dependants, we have responsibilities. But, any time we can, even if we only have a short couple of minutes, we have the opportunity to check in, to turn our focus inwards and see how we are doing. We have the opportunity to breathe, reset and get ready to go again. Yoga also teaches us how important it is to nourish ourselves, to refuel our souls and do something that is good for ourselves. We should all be engaging in acts of self-care every day. This is not selfishness, it is absolutely crucial to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us. You cannot pour from an empty jug. The time that you allow yourself to become centred and grounded is something that you can incorporate into your daily life.
If you want to work out, get on a treadmill. If you have made the decision to practise yoga, then try to recognise what it is you have gifted yourself. You have given yourself the opportunity to change your entire way of thinking and living. Make the most of that opportunity! If you are reading this and you aren’t sure if yoga is for you, all I can ask you is how can it not be? Can you afford to continue living your life in the way you are? Or do you want to do something to give yourself the chance to live your very best life?
Come, sweat with me, stretch with me, grow with me, fall over with me, get back up again with me, challenge yourself with me, take all that and take it home with you and give it to the other people around you. There is infinite space in this world for us all to have a little more awareness, deeper insight, more wisdom and of course, more love.
See you on the mat, beautiful people!