What do you expect from a regular yoga practice? Flexibility and strength? Or perhaps feeling a little calmer, de-stressing, getting stronger, or maybe achieving the tone of an Instagram celebrity yogi?! Yes, all of the above is possible (although not sure about the last one…)
But here are some lesser known, really solid, reasons to make time for a regular yoga practice:
1. You’ll become more mindful
There is something about tuning into your breathing and moving consciously that switches on mindfulness. The awareness that we harness on our mat begins to stay with us off our mat. We begin to notice more: how we feel, how others feel and how the world around us feels.
We notice our habits and patterns. Instead of thinking it’s miserable outside (and I know, it is February), we begin to notice the fresh smell in the air, feel the wind on our faces, marvel at the dramatic clouds and, on a good day, feel just how amazing it is to be alive.
2. You’ll begin to tune in
Practising feeling into postures, breathing into sensation and leaning into how we feel through our yoga practice means we begin to ‘wake up.’ We begin to become aware of the sensations in our bodies, not just in down dog but in our day to day routines. We become acutely aware of how our bodies feel in our relationships, work, family dynamics… everything. Which takes me to my next point…
3. You’ll learn to deal with your sh*t
As we begin to tune in and become more mindful we create the awareness and space to take a look at our shadows. Our yoga practice can give us the grounding and support we need to face the things we may have been brushing over or neglecting over the years. The sticky parts that we’d rather not look at.
Often our best gifts lie just behind it all. And once we can see what is no longer serving us, sometimes we need to make some tough decisions. It’s a bumpy road to more fulfilment. And, while I know from experience that this can be a really difficult thing, it is so worth it. Integration and a fuller version of yourself awaits you.
4. You’ll learn to be kinder to yourself
Learning to breathe fully, to soften, to ground, to rest; these are all the foundations of a solid self-care practice. Instead of pushing through we learn to stay strong, yet soft. In challenges on the mat we learn to let go where we’re holding and soften where we can.
In this way we learn to be gentle with ourselves as we work through the challenges we face in our lives. We learn we can get through tough times without gritting our teeth. We can use the ground for support, we can use our core for support, we can soften, breathe and when in doubt we can always surrender. We learn to make movement feel good on our mats and to take breaks and modifications when we need it. These simple ways of looking after ourselves on the mat can transform our daily routines as we begin to see the importance of listening to our bodies.
5. The world around you will begin to change
Not because you start preaching from the Yoga Sutras, but rather because when you take a few steps towards wholehearted living the universe somehow ends up opening doors in your direction.
Mindfulness allows for mindful choices, tuning in means we make decisions that serve our higher good. Being kind to ourselves sets us up for better relationships, and as we learn to deal with the things we’ve hidden away we create the space to live the lives we are here to live. Living to our fuller or fullest potential allows people around us to follow suit.
When we are no longer willing to play into the dramas that just aren’t serving us, sometimes those dramas that once cost us sleepless nights end up transforming into situations that we know we can handle. After all, we’re here to live our lives to the fullest and in doing so our lives begin to feel part of something much bigger than ourselves.