I started practicing yoga two years ago when I entered college. I went twice a week and never looked back. Now I am a yoga instructor teaching at LA Fitness three classes a week. I get paid to do something I love, and I can’t be more grateful. Yoga has taught me more than just “cool” poses.
- Set an intention. At the beginning class, some teachers will ask you to take a moment and set an intention for class. Sometimes it’s trying to sync your breathing with your movements, sometimes it’s just trying to hold a pose for the longest that you can. It can be anything you want it to be, you just have to set it. By setting an intention, you teach yourself to set a goal. When you’re in class, you’re thinking about that intention you set and how you can try to achieve it. This goes way beyond the yoga mat. Learning this in yoga will help you to make your own goals in your regular life. Even if you don’t achieve your goal as fast as you want, you can learn something new every time to get further.
- Honor yourself and your body. Yoga is about nothing other than you. That’s why they call it your practice. No one else in class matters, just you and your movements. As a very competitive person, this is a hard lesson to learn. You aren’t in class to try to do the same pose at the same level as the person next to you. Where you are at today might differ from where you’ll be at tomorrow or where you were at yesterday, and that’s okay. Being able to recognize that about yourself is a huge part of yoga. You work to make your body the best it can be. You aren’t supposed to put bad things into your body, you’re only supposed to help it grow. Take care of yourself, and your body will reward you.
- Let go of what no longer serves you. At the end of some classes, before your meditation at the end, you’ll squeeze into a tiny ball. Your instructor might tell you to think of something that no longer serves you: something that you do not need nor want in your life anymore, and squeeze it out through your ball. You release it from your body, and it is no longer there. This can easily translate into your every day life. Let go of what doesn’t help you, let go of what has already served its’ purpose, and let go of anything that isn’t bettering your life. Usually this isn’t an easy thing to do, but sometimes it’s necessary if you want to be genuinely happy. Don’t be afraid to let go of what no longer serves you.
- Be present. For the longest time, I went to yoga looking forward to the meditation at the end, because I knew I was going to get the best nap ever. I would always fall asleep, even if I didn’t mean to. Then my intentions for class became trying to not fall asleep, to stay in the present. This was one of the hardest things for me, but now I am able to do it every time. Staying in the present allows you to think of nothing else but what is going on at that exact point in time. I am able to stay attentive and worry about nothing else for an entire hour when I am at a yoga class. It’s an unbelievable feeling to experience a completely empty mind.
- Breathe. Probably the most important thing in yoga is breathing. You want to sync your breath with the movements you are making. You start the class focusing on your breath, and you end the class focusing on your breath. All the time between, you try to keep that focus. You learn to breathe into the spots you’re stretching, breathe into the pain of holding the same pose for a long time, and breathe even when you don’t want to. I’d like to think that yoga has generally made me a calmer person, even though I still have many moments when I am not. Because of yoga, I remind myself to breathe when I am getting angry, upset, or scared. Actually feeling my heart rate decrease because I am focusing on my breathe is an amazing thing to me. Taking a few deep breaths before reacting to something that angers me helps me be more reasonable. Learning to breathe, and remembering to do so when needed, is such a vital part to not only yoga but every day life.
Yoga has helped me become more relaxed, and I think have a better outlook on life. I strive to take good care of my body, because I want it to be the best I know it can be. Days that I really don’t want to go teach are days that I need to be teaching. When I have a lot on my mind or I’m having a rough day, I hope that I’ll be going to yoga soon. I am oh so thankful for the lessons yoga has taught me and am so excited to see what else it has in mind.
The light in me honors and recognizes the light in you. Namaste yogis.