3 Life Lessons I Learned From my Yoga Practice

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Yoga is an ancient therapy that defines the union between the body and the mind. Yoga, in its pure way, means “union” and ideally, all the postures (asanas) lead our bodies to a magnificent union between our minds and body in a fluid alignment.

Even though there are yoga perceptions such as it being “calm and slow”, “only for women”, “not an exercise” it has to be said that it’s true. It is calm and slow – if you want to; it is only for women – if you go to a Women’s only studio and is definitely not an exercise if you only consider track and weights exercise. Yoga is much more than those labels, so is life, and so are you!

Here are some things that I have learned through my yoga practice that I believe to be essential for my daily life, as they are beautiful contradictions that have taught me that life – just like yoga – is filled with incongruencies, disparities, situations, and challenges that might be hard to understand logically, and uncomfortable to endure; but they work.

1. Turning inwards: Opens us

As weird as it may sound, it is those subtle moments of deep self-connection and deep self-study that open us and make us grow to new heights. Yoga postures that demonstrate the importance of turning inward to oneself are Malasana (Fig.1) and Balasana (Fig.2); these are great preparations for a meditation practice which is the best way to turn inwards to open up. The Art of Living Organization states that one of the biggest benefits of meditation is Personal transformation.

Meditation can bring about a true personal transformation. As you learn more about yourself, you’ll naturally start discovering more about yourself. – The Art of Living Organization

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Figure 1. Malasana (Garland pose)

 

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Figure 2. Balasana (Child pose)

2. Twisting: Gives us balance

There is no other moment where focus is more important than when we are twisting. In yoga, twists are postures that generally involve moving the chest in an opposing direction in relation to the pelvis. In daily life, we see this when we’re being torn between two courses of action: be it people, decisions or any two things for that matter. Every difficult situation, or ‘twist’ brings a sense of control loss – but what yoga has taught me is that it is precisely that feeling that urges us to center, ground, and balance our life so that we are able to stand steady in that twist. Maybe the ‘twisted situation’ is not going to untwist anytime soon, but if you focus enough it is completely possible to find the balance needed to overcome the twist. And once the twist is over you have already trained a new muscle and gained a new strength to balance yourself when another “twist” comes into your life.

Great asanas that reflect the importance of being focused in a twist in order to find balance are: Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana or Revolved Half-Moon (Fig.3) and Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana or Revolved Downward-facing Dog (Fig.4).

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Figure 3. Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half-Moon)

 

Downward Dog Yoga Stretch
Figure 4. Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana (Revolved Downward-facing Dog)

Note: If you feel scared you can always start working on your focus doing simpler twists such as Supta Matsyendrasana or Knee Down Twist (Fig.5) and Sucirandhrasana or Thread the Needle (Fig.6).

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Figure 5. Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Twist)
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Figure 6. Parsva Balasana (Thread the needle)

3. Strengthening: Makes us flexible

Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving without the correct equipment or an equipment that isn’t strong enough to carry or hold you? Your body won’t either! When we stretch our muscles we put our bodies’ security system on alert – because it knows we might be doing something we are not ready to.

Does this sound familiar? Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is amazing – if, and only if you (or your treatment team) knows that you are strong enough to endure the “stretch”.. Yes, I know that it’s easier to skip the strengthening phase before the stretch, but that’s just an unconscious way of setting yourself up  for a possible failure or incomplete result. Yoga postures require your muscles to be very conscious, awake, and strong before a deep stretch – if not, your body will end up protecting itself by an injury to make  sure you take enough rest and you strengthen before stretching. Hard work builds up a good result! Some yoga poses – or life challenges – seem simple, yet require a lot of strength to endure the challenges we are faced with, without collateral damage; here are some of them: Paschimottanasana or Seated forward bend (Fig.7) and Uttanasana or Standing forward bend (Fig.8). In both of them make sure to push your sits bones out, apart from each other, and up and hug your ribs towards each other in order to make the healthy stretch happen in the hamstrings and not an injure in the lower back!

 

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Image Source: Pinterest
Image Source Yoga Poses: Figure 1, Figure 2Figure 3 & 4, Figure 5, Figure 6
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