Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Over 5 years ago I took my very first yoga class. It was in a gym in east London where I had just moved to for my new job. I was 21 and had recently gone through a big transition in my life. I had taken a new 'big city' job, moved out of home for the first time and become completely independent. It was a scary time, but also an empowering and exhilarating one.
But with all these changes I didn't feel very grounded. I felt a lot of unease and anxiety. I needed a path to follow, something to focus on, something that was going to make me a better person. Thankfully, the universe brought me exactly what I needed, and so much more than I imagined, a totally new way of life, a change of mindset, a shift in consciousness, a purpose, and years down the line, a new career... Yoga.
Reflecting on my yoga journey throughout these last 5 years I have learnt so much from the practice. I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like now if I never found yoga. One thing is for sure, I would be a completely different person. Today, I'm inspired to share with you the 5 biggest life lessons that yoga has taught me so far.
1. Be patient!
This has been the hardest one for me to learn. I have never been a patient person. I am a go-getter who wants to get things done so I hate having to wait for things to happen. It is only recently that I have started to notice an improvement in my level of patience. In our yoga practice, it takes time to achieve certain asanas, to improve our flexibility, build up control of the body and develop the strength to be able to perform advanced postures.
It took me well over 6 months of consistent headstand practice to be able to come into the inversion with ease and hold it, it has taken me over 4 years to develop enough flexibility to (almost) be able to come into full splits (hanumanasana) and I am still practising patience with mastering handstand after many months of working on my upper body strength, body control and fear of falling.
This patience I have developed on the mat has transferred into my life off the mat and although I still struggle sometimes, I do find when a situation is not going the way I want, or something is not happening as quickly as I would like, I now find it easier to surrender to the present moment, and accept it for what it is right now, trusting that everything will align when the time is right. Which brings me to number 2...
2. Trust the Universe, everything really does happen for a reason.
This has been a big one for me over the last year. Learning how to surrender to everything that happens in life, the good and the bad, is not an easy thing to do. But what has helped me do this is the connection to the universe I have formed by deepening my yoga and meditation practice.
Yoga has helped me to align with the universe. I now have more awareness of the signs the universe gives me, the omens and the blessings. I have witnessed some 'magical blessings' from the universe and this is what has developed the trust I now have. The fact that the universe has blessed me with such incredible things in the past keeps my faith.
Even when times are hard and it feels like nothing is working out, I can rest assured that everything is exactly how it should be right now. Everything that is meant to happen will, when the time is right, and sometimes, what we first perceive as problems, are actually blessings in disguise.
3. The breath is the most powerful tool we have.
Most of us already know that the breath can help us to remain calm in stressful situations, and stop us reacting mindlessly in a confrontation. One of the things I have learnt from yin yoga is how we can use our breath to calm our mind, which then relaxes our muscles, helping us go deeper in yoga postures and also keep our nervous system in balance. We can also direct our breath to certain areas of the body to release tension or break up an energy blockage.
In addition, the breath takes us away from our crazy 'monkey minds' and brings us into our body, and the present moment. One of my favourite quotes from Ekhart Tolle is "One conscious breath is enough to make some space where before there was the uninterrupted succession of one thought after another". The more we consciously bring our awareness to our breath, the more space we create between our thoughts, which is exactly what we aim to do in meditation.
4. Mindset is everything. Our thoughts create our reality.
Sometimes in my classes, when I'm teaching a particularly strong or challenging posture I will say to my students "This is where it's all about the mind. Can you stay focused on the breath when you start to feel the intensity of the posture?". So often, when we find ourselves in a situation that we do not like, we get caught up in the mind and the negative thoughts that it loves to create, telling us how bad the situation is. The mind takes control over us and we believe whatever it tells us.
Yoga teaches us that we are not our mind. Once we know this, we can begin to separate from the mind and not be influenced by the things it tells us. You may have heard the famous quote "What you think, you become". When we think negative thoughts, the world around us appears dark and depressing and we attract negativity into our life. When we think positive thoughts, the world appears bright and joyful and we attract positive things into our life. We have the power to choose our thoughts and our thoughts have the power to create our reality.
5. Happiness comes from within. Nothing or nobody can or should make us happy.
Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of all suffering. I think all of us have experienced at least once in our life when we have become attached to someone or something and then we lose that person or thing and we suffer badly. We feel incomplete, lost or lonely, maybe we even become depressed. But the truth is, nothing outside of ourselves is responsible for our happiness. True happiness can only come from within.
As I continue down my path I realise that life is one big lesson, and there is always more to learn.
Every person who comes into our life is here to teach us something, every bad experience teaches us a valuable lesson, and every challenge helps us grow. Again, it comes down to the way we view it. We can see life as a constant struggle, a battle, or we can see it as a spiritual journey to grow and develop into the best version of ourselves.
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