Yoga may be all the rage these days, but as you well know, it’s an ancient practice that has been sustaining mental, physical and spiritual health for centuries. And whether you’ve been practicing for years, decades, or even just a few months, there are two very important things to remember for your next yoga class.
The most important lesson in yoga is to breathe. I know. It sounds obvious. Breathing is something we do automatically every day. But you would be surprised how often you will find yourself holding your breath in any given pose. Often, you won’t notice until the instructor cues you to breathe. All of the sudden, you realize you’ve been holding your breath, and let it out with a sigh.
Off the mat, we can change so much by simply paying attention to our breath. Think about the last time you were stressed. You were probably either holding your breath, or your breathing was shallow and quick. On the other hand, when you are relaxed and calm, your breath will tend to be deeper, smoother, and less rapid. When we are stressed, we tend to turn to food, alcohol, or cigarettes. But what if all we need to do is change our breathing pattern?
The next time you feel stress coming your way, take a moment to take several long, deep, slow breaths before you reach for that piece of cake or bottle of brandy. Your breath is there as your guide and friend. What’s more is that according to the yogi’s, you were born with only a certain number of breaths. So make the most of your life and breathe long and deep, resolving to live your life to the fullest with every inhale and exhale.
Yoga is not about how flexible you are, how long you can hold a pose, or who can do it better. It is about how open you are to new things without judgment. In your first yoga class, you will no doubt find yourself looking around the room, not just to make sure you are doing things right, but also to compare yourself to others. Am I doing this right? Why can’t I do it like they can?
You need to remember that you are a unique and special person. You were born with your own set of strengths and challenges. And comparing yourself to a perfect stranger whose story you don’t know is a fruitless exercise that will leave you feeling empty. Just because someone can touch their toes or hold a pose longer than you can does not mean they are better, stronger or more advanced than you. It doesn’t mean anything pertaining to you.
Besides, you don’t know what challenges they face in other areas of their lives. Maybe they can’t run a business as successfully as you can, or maybe they don’t have solid relationship like you do. Who knows? It is easy to see that comparing yourself to others will get you nowhere but frustrated. Frustrated at something that isn’t even real!
So the next time you walk into a yoga class, remember: all that matters is that you are doing your best.