Yoga is something I wish I’d been doing my entire life. It wasn’t until oh, about four years ago that I even took a class in attempt to stave off some back issues I was having, but now I’m hooked. I try to make time for at least one, if not two classes a week and while I wish I could practice daily, I notice the benefits I reap from even those few hours a week are so obvious.
Everyone knows the physical benefits of a regular yoga practice—I mean all it takes is one look at your teacher’s long and lean, legs-for-days body to make you really thankful you’re there doing whatever it is that helps her look like that. But at the right studio, with the right teachers, your practice can be—dare I say it?—a bit transformative. I switch between two studios, Yoga Vida in Manhattan and Yoga Agora in Astoria, and I’ve been lucky enough to walk out of class a bit wiser and thinking clearer about life. The teachers talk a lot throughout the class about the poses you’re doing and how your experience with your body right now can relate to the larger picture of your life. A few of my favorite yoga-induced life lessons:
Effort then ease
There’s constant talk in class about making the effort to find the pose, and then relaxing into the ease of maintaining it. It’s a great lesson on one if life’s hardest realizations for me: perfect, even comfortability, is not instant. It takes effort first to get to a place where you finally feel at ease with anything—a new workout routine, a new job title, a new city. Put in that effort, and the ease will eventually come.
Go after what makes you feel good
So simple right? I heard my teacher say this in one of my most recent classes in relation to finding a variation of pose that works for you and as “duh” of a concept as it should be, it was such a “wow” moment for me. As someone who sometimes tortures herself making the “right” decision or doing what is expected or considered correct, it’s important to sometimes hear that you should just chase what makes you feel happiest.
Cultivate a support system
For your body, when it’s contorting into a new or difficult pose—and for your life, when it gets difficult or feels insurmountable. Surrounding yourself with people who leave you feeling happier, braver and—above all—supported is one of life’s greatest gifts.
Let go and be present
It’s very easy to get into your own head during a yoga class, which is why I’m glad my teachers are often repeating this mantra. I mean, being present is kind of the whole point of yoga, right? But, like in life, maintaining a presence is much easier said then done. I’ll find myself disappointed by the fact that my warrior doesn’t look as good as the Lulu-clad model (I mean, definitely model—I do go to yoga in SoHo after all…) or thinking what I’m going to have for dinner after class (I’m always thinking about food). Hearing this over and over keeps me routed in the good I’m doing for myself .
Life is not symmetrical
This may be my favorite phrase I’ve heard in yoga yet. Our teacher was using it to set us at ease if one side of our body couldn’t achieve the poses in the same way as the other, but it’s the kind of phrase that just seems to have greater life meaning, doesn’t it? I guess maybe I shouldn’t have included this one because I feel like everyone can view it’s meaning differently through the scope of their own life experience, but it seemed too good not to pass on.