I started taking yoga almost a year ago. While I expected to gain benefits like increased strength and improved flexibility, I didn’t anticipate learning so much about life.
Whenever we start to learn something new, it mixes up the existing neural pathways in our brains, laying down new ways of thinking (and therefore doing). Here are a few ways yoga has changed how I think:
1. Show up early
I used to think being on time meant sliding into a room with five seconds to spare. In business meetings, I would spend the first several minutes organizing my mind around where I was and what I was there to do.
In yoga, at least at my studio, (www.mindthemat.com), the culture is to show up 10-15 minutes early. I used to think showing up early anywhere was a waste of time. Now I show up early to all of my meetings. Not only does it remove a magnitude of stress if traffic is heavy, it allows me to collect my thoughts about what I hope to achieve and put myself in the best frame of mind for how I can make a contribution.
2. Failure is required
For most of my life, I was proud to live by the mantra, “Failure is not an option.” I avoided failure at all costs…including the cost of not stretching outside my comfort zone to see how high I could really climb.
But in yoga, it is fun to fail. To do all of the exciting stuff, like balancing on your arms while the rest of your body seemingly levitates, you simply must fail. Thanks to great instructors, failure actually became fun. I saw very quickly that I could fall on my face, laugh at myself, try again, and make great progress as a result. My practice has come farther than I thought possible…thanks in large part to embracing failure as a stepping stone to get to the next level.
I have noticed that being ok with failure has made its way into other areas of my life. I’m willing to take on more challenging jobs, try new things and say “yes” when I may have previously said, “no.” So far I haven’t fallen on my face and work has gotten a lot more fun!
3. Everything Isn’t a Competition
I consider myself a competitive person, so to be honest, yoga never really appealed to me. After all, there are no winners or losers in yoga, there just “is.” Yoga instructors don’t even challenge you to push yourself to be better than you were yesterday for goodness sake! They tell you to listen to your body and do what feels right.
For me, this idea of not always having to win, or even beating a personal best, has been a game changer. I’m finding that I don’t always have to be in competitive mode. Allowing myself to release my competitive mindset in other areas of my life has allowed me to find more ways to collaborate and has opened my mind to really listen to different points of view.
4.Drop the Judgment
In yoga it becomes very clear that we are all on a journey together. All of us are at a different point in our journey and we have different challenges and strengths, but we all started in the same place and we still have much to learn. I love that some things come easily to me and other things are a huge challenge. My neighbor does not necessarily share my challenges and we all have areas in which we excel.
At the end of class, we bow our heads toward the teacher and everyone says, “Namaste.” (The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.) It is a moment when the teacher recognizes the gifts of her students, acknowledging that we are all equal and full of infinite value.
I will confess that walking through the world acknowledging the divine light in each person doesn’t always come easily. But having my yoga practice reminds me of the light in each person which brings more patience and less judgment to my daily interactions.
5. Make Room for the Spirit
At the end of most yoga classes, we splay our bodies flat on the floor, relax completely and simply breathe: savasana. As a person who thrives on a fast-paced life, I used to find myself antsy during this part of the practice. Now, I truly appreciate the effects.
Letting go of everything, I can really find my “self.” If you think about it, we don’t get to really spend much time with our self. We spend a lot of time with the conversations in our heads, trying to come to a decision about something or second-guessing something we have done. We make mental lists and endless plans. But we very rarely just “are.”
Something happens when you’re able to get in touch with your self. For me, it is an intensely spiritual feeling that forces a deep respect for who I am other than the labels I and others have given to me. It is care for the being for which I am responsible. I can’t say what the outward benefit of that is, but I think it must be positive!
I challenge you to try something new and think about how the lessons you learn can flow through to other areas of your life. When we’re in learning mode, we’re open to change. And to change is to grow. Namaste!