Tuesday 24 November 2015

Lessons from the mat

Yoga lessons

When I started practicing yoga regularly, I was mostly interested in the physical benefits. A lean, toned body, great flexibility and mad handstand skills were what I was after. Still am, to be honest. 
But slowly, a deeper benefit is emerging. The time on the mat is teaching me more than being able to reach my toes. 

Once you've learnt it, you got it? 
One of the biggest misconceptions I had in the beginning was that once I learnt a pose, I would be able to do it whenever I wanted to. Kinda like riding a bike. Turns out, that's not the case at all. 
Just because I pulled off a really good firefly pose today doesn't mean that I can do it again tomorrow. 
Life is like that, too. You may think you have something figured out, and at that moment, you do! 
But sadly, it won't last.

Let me give you an example: You have finally figured out how to deal with that difficult aunt* of yours with all the probing, tactless questions. You will be friendly, yet firm, and won't be provoked into flying off the handle again when she asks you for the hundredth time why you are not married yet.

(*The aunt is fictional.)

It works fine for Thanksgiving. You are proud of  yourself, thinking you have finally mastered the minefield that is having a conversation with her. 
But then, Christmas rolls around. The season has been very stressful, you secretly expected your boyfriend to propose to you (he didn't), and you simply can't handle your aunt's expectantly raised eyebrows and hints about cows who give the milk away for free. Against your better judgement, you yell at her to shut up, and storm out in a huff.

Just because you know how you should deal with her, doesn't mean that you will always be able to do it. 
Yoga is the same: Just because you know the pose, and you have been able to do it before, won't mean that your body is capable of always accomplishing it. 

Firefly yoga pose
Firefly pose

The mind is powerful 
Another lesson I'm learning is the power of the mind. If you are convinced you won't be able to do it, guess what? You won't be able to do it. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keeping an open mind is the secret to a full, vibrant life. Also, the secret to bending your body into positions you never thought possible. Our bodies are much more capable than we give them credit for, and our minds usually quit before the body does. 
And you know what? Life works the same way. You have way more talents than you think you do. 
One of - or maybe even the simplest -  so-called "secrets" of success is this: Hard work. Nobody who is successful was born this way. They simply figured out at some point what they wanted to do, and went for it. It's easy to say that successful people owe everything to talent and chance, when in reality? They worked harder than the other people in their field for it. 
We have a choice: Use our mind for us, or against us. Most of us are very accomplished in using it against us: I'm too stupid. I will never be able to do this. This is too hard. Nobody like me has ever done this before. Who do I think I am?

But here is the thing: We don't have to talk ourselves down. Why do we do it in anyway? To avoid disappointment? To keep us small? Because modesty is a virtue?
I'm still in the beginning stages myself, so there is only so much I can tell you about it. But so far, what I have experienced is this: If you believe in yourself, amazing things will happen.Your body is much stronger than you think. So is your soul. 
Let's talk positive about ourselves for a while, and see what happens, okay?  

Pincha Mayurasana

If your mind is unbalanced, everything else will be, too
This has been such a surprise to me, even though it probably shouldn't be. We all know that body and mind are connected, don't we? But still, experiencing it first hand is wild. 
If I had a tough day, and my mind is in turmoil, I cannot balance for the life of me. Be it on one foot, on my head or on my hands - I will topple over for sure. Without a calm and focused mind, it is impossible to have a calm body.
That also applies to the rest of your life.

If you are worried or preoccupied, you won't be fully present. You either live in fear of the future (because that's what worry is), or you wrestle with a problem in the present that takes all of your energy and focus.  
We can't avoid these emotions, because they are part of being human. But with practice, we can learn to control them, instead of them controlling us. This is what I'm currently trying to learn. Yoga is helping me a great deal with it. Not only have I started to become more aware of it when it happens, but I find that by focusing your energy on the present moment, you can push the worry away.

Grasshopper pose
Grasshopper pose

You are never finished
Many yogis dream of that one posture that they want to accomplish one day. (Scorpion handstand is mine.) Chasing that goal is what keeps you motivated, makes you roll out your mat day after day and practice patiently (or impatiently on some days).

Do you have a life goal like that? Maybe you want to get the corner office one day? Become a manager? Get a big house with a swimming pool? Have your dream wedding?
Whatever your goal may be, have you thought beyond it? What you will do once you have reached it?
Because here is the thing: You won't be "done". If the goal is still far away, you may think that once you have finally achieved it, you can lean back and enjoy the fruits of all your hard work.

That's not how it works. It may not seem that way, but the journey is the goal. The satisfaction you get when reaching little milestones is an incredible high.
And here is a secret: Once you have reached your original goal, you will want more. On the way there you have been exposed to new and exciting possibilities you didn't even know existed. (Like press-up handstands, omg!)

And that's okay. In fact, it's one of the three secrets of a happy life! I'm pretty sure I have mentioned them before on here, but I like them so much, I'll do it again. One of our friends told us a few years ago, and I never forgot because I think it's so true.
They are:

Someone to love, something to work towards, and something to look forward to. 
Simple yet powerful, no?

Floating lotus pose
Floating lotus pose

This is just the beginning. There are so many more lessons waiting for me, and I can't wait to find out what they are! The yoga journey is mysterious, full of promise and possibilities. I love it.

What lessons have you learnt from your workout?



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