Everyone has a story as to why they attended their first yoga class and why they keep going back. Most involve a desire to slow down, release tension, or recover from an injury. What I bring to the mat truly depends on the day and some days I have an emotional experience.
I have been practicing yoga for 18 years and I have been teaching for nine years. My favorite poses are arm balance poses, as they bring a sense of playfulness to my life when I am feeling stressed–however, it wasn’t always that way.
My most frustrating yoga experience was 12 years ago in a crowded Vinyasa class. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t focus. I kept stumbling throughout the class and when I tried to get into my favorite pose–Crow pose, I couldn’t hold it at all. Halfway through the class I settled into Child’s pose and cried, thinking I had completely missed something in all of my years of yoga. That experience seemed to open emotions that were being held back.
It wasn’t until I was in Savasana, that I realized I had actually learned the best lesson yoga could give me–release. I had been so stressed, that I hadn’t even paid attention to what was going on inside of me.
You can all be your worst enemy, letting your negative thoughts and emotions get the best of you; yet if you pay attention, these experiences are your best teachers, reminding you that everything is going to be alright and that you are exactly where you need to be.
When you can be present you open yourself up to experiencing the fullness of the moment; all of the pain, pleasure, beauty, and release. I believe this release happens because your yoga mat is your own magic carpet that allows you to escape the stress of life–a place to refuel, reconnect, and let go.
So, why does yoga provide this release and how can you learn from the experience?
When you are busy, running from one thing to the next and trying to fit everything into your daily lives, try your best to slow down and be still. Connect the breath and the body in each pose. Steadily tap into the calm space within, so you can be present. Practicing yoga reveals what is happening inside you and helps you release all of the negative energy.
By slowing down and bringing awareness to your physical body, yoga allows you to reconnect the link between body, breath, and mind. Yoga gives you the space to look at the aspects of yourself that you have been pushing aside and ignoring in the hopes they will go away.
It makes no difference what those aspects are; the constant pain of your body that are not being taken care of or the emotional pain that has been hanging on for years.
Sometimes it’s difficult to wake up to those feelings, but this can also be the most rewarding experience as it allows a reconnection to your inner strength and courage. Since most of you want to leave your yoga mat feeling refreshed and restored, this can be a hard experience to understand–the fact that you leave feeling sad, vulnerable, or angry.
If you have an emotionally exhausting experience in yoga, please don’t leave the mat. Stay and sit with the feelings to learn more about yourself, so that you can truly grow and embrace the next stage in your life.
Each pose not only has the ability to open up a certain muscle area, but also your internal organs. You detoxify your body in twisting poses, releasing impurities in your liver and kidneys. You increase the flow of oxygen throughout the body by focusing on your breath in Pranayama exercises.
When you realize the magnitude of the stress and tension you are carrying, you can consciously work on releasing all of it in your daily or weekly yoga practice. This is the beginning of letting go,
Acknowledging all that comes up in your yoga practice as well as your reaction to it. Whether you are noticing your lack of focus in balance poses or sense of vulnerability in hip openers.
Typically, it’s not until the end of the class that the tears come due to the fact that you’ve worked hard and brought mindfulness to the mind-body connection during class and at the end you’ve allowed yourself to fully surrender in Savasana. If and when the tears start, don’t stop. Let the tears come and allow the release.
As a student and instructor, the lesson I’m constantly learning is this: everything is going to be okay. It doesn’t matter how many times I get my right and left mixed up, or if I breathe too loud, lose focus, or begin crying in Savasana.
The reason I still go to my mat day-after-day, week-after-week is acknowledging that everything is going to be okay. I hope you are able to embrace all that comes up on the mat and allow yourself to move forward with more awareness and self-compassion.