I am over halfway through my 30-day yoga challenge and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Oh sure, some days I am so sore that I feel like I need a hoist to haul my butt out of bed and I’ve had my fair share of missteps along the way (crow pose gone wrong = landing solidly on my head) but for the most part it’s been an enlightening journey.
This past week, one of the lovely yoga teachers at my studio stayed after class to chat with me for a bit and she imparted 3 wise lessons that I think can be applied not only to yoga but to life as well. I was so impacted by her words that I shared them with my husband and children and I thought I’d share them with you too:
1. I Am Flexible– I’ve taken a few classes from this particular teacher and she had heard me say “I’m not a naturally flexible person” a couple of times. She told me that she is a big believer in the power of the mind and the laws of attraction and if I put the message out to the universe that I’m not flexible – I will continue to struggle with my flexibility. Instead, she gently encouraged me to reframe my image of myself as someone who is leaning into my natural flexibility and growing and becoming more limber and pliable every day.
This really got me thinking about how often I maintain an image of myself that is holding me back from my potential. Do you do it too? We tell ourselves – “I’m fat, I’m bad with money, I’m stressed, I’m out of shape, I’m unworthy, I’m not smart enough” and then those things become true for us. Even our children are already deciding things about themselves based on their perceptions and things they have been told by parents, family members and friends. The amazing thing is that by noticing and then reframing these thoughts (because they are only thoughts after all), we can create a different and more positive reality.
2. Visualize the Move Before You Make it– have you ever tried to do a reverse jump into an aerial yoga silk using just your arms? Not easy! Or attempted an arm bind while in pyramid pose? My hands don’t even touch! But my teacher suggested that I visualize myself making these moves successfully in my mind before I do them and this mind-body connection will speed up my success with the more challenging postures.
I love this because visualization is such a powerful tool. My oldest son adores soccer and he will often take the time to see himself scoring goals in an upcoming game before he hits the field. I like closing my eyes and visualizing future successes (like landing a huge voice-over gig), making vision boards with pictures of my goals (my kids love making these too) and even using downloaded guided visualizations from iTunes (try this one).
3. Learn From instead of Comparing To– I frequently find myself studying my fellow yogis during class and I am blown away by their strength and flexibility. Immediately I start telling myself “I suck at this move, I’m so inflexible, I wish I could do it more like them, etc, etc.” My teacher reassured me that everyone falls victim to these comparisons but suggested that I catch myself when these thoughts bubble up and to instead take the opportunity to appreciate that person and to learn and improve my own practice by making slight adjustments to my postures as I work towards their level of skill.
I also often make these comparisons in my everyday life. “She’s a better cook than me, they are so much more organized, she is so much fitter than me” and these thoughts can be crippling. Instead of comparing, I am going to take the time to appreciate that person for their talents and then think about what I could learn from them that I could possibly incorporate into my own life.
One of the most important things I’ve gleaned from my yoga practice is to be more gentle with myself. I am far from the uber-elastic yogi that I aspire to be and that’s ok. I am now working towards my goal by leaning into my highly impressive natural flexibility, visualizing my eventual head stand and learning from my fellow students. Thank you to all of my teachers and especially to Jennie!