Yoga offers lessons that you won’t find in a book. These lessons come to mind when I reflect on why I do yoga. It is amazing to see what people can do with their bodies. Many beautiful and inspirational yoga videos are floating around on the internet. But it is the silent and invisible aspects that can only be discovered internally, and which often go overlooked in passing digital bytes. It is difficult to capture and communicate these things.
I have learned that my physical barriers are often created by my mental resistance. Yoga is great for anxiety but if I jump onto the mat without being fully present, letting anxious thoughts float around as I fall into poses, I will not get very far. The experience will not be pleasant either, desperate rather than tranquil. This has been a humbling lesson that I often have to revisit when I want to give up in moments of frustration.
Using breath as energy is another subtle lesson that yoga teaches. Whenever a friend asks me to teach them some poses this awareness is the hardest part to communicate. If I could go back to tell myself all the things I have learned through my practice (with much more to learn), my past self would probably not understand what I was talking about. Breath opens space, and space is all you need sometimes. Even a tiny bit can make a world of difference. One can teach a pose, but it will always be up to the student to explore that pose individually and internally. That exploration is what makes yoga special for me.
Learning to not push too hard has been more challenging than any physical challenge I have encountered. Yoga has taught me that there is more strength in moderation than in completion. I still resist this lesson at times but it gives me something to work with and this is valuable in itself. This notion of moderation contradicts many years of academic education, and beyond that the years spent immersed in modern society. The push to achieve without stopping to consider what is being achieved has been drilled into my brain. Being able to stop thinking and explore a deeper level of awareness is why I do yoga. (A little rebellion against the system is fun too :)
This year of deepening my yoga practice has confronted me with a lot of truths and valuable lessons. Cycles of enthusiasm, overwhelmed tiredness, resistance and surrender have all come and gone. It is true that nothing ever stays the same. And while this can be defeating at times, it can also be humbling to acknowledge that life escapes definition. Don’t abandon the mat in hard times. It is there to teach a lesson even when you feel like rolling up in a ball of self-pity and letting the tension in your body consume you. I will forget all of these lessons and I will remember them again. And there will always be moments that remind me I don’t know the half of it, or any of it. This wisdom that reveals itself bit by bit through internal exploration is why I know I will always want to keep practicing, questioning, and finding peace in humility. And having fun too, there is always lots of that!