What can yoga teach us?

Valuable life lessons are often learnt on the yoga mat, I’ve received so much insight about myself through practicing, whilst also being taught tools that I can adopt off the mat. The mat is where it all starts but the yoga journey is never ending.

Yoga is the bridge between the body and mind, it’s a journey back to that place of peace that resides in all of us, back to our true selves. Yoga is such a beautiful gift of self-exploration and self-development, it helps bring you home. Showing up on your mat, whether you’re feeling like it or not is enough, there is a lesson to be learnt in that itself. Yoga is a reflection of life: Some days we wake up feeling a lightness and other days there is some darkness and it’s all fine, part of yoga is about accepting and embracing what is, it’s about learning to breathe through whatever comes up and showing up regardless of how you’re feeling.

Flexibility is something that is often associated with yoga, so has yoga really got anything to do with touching your toes? Well there is no doubt that with practice you will find it much easier to touch your toes, in fact there will be many surprises along the way in terms of what you are capable of 🙂 but this is most definitely not the goal of yoga. This is something that certainly isn’t mentioned in any of the ancient texts, hehe, in fact in these text, movement (the asana) is not a dominant component, it is part of a series of limbs which make up yoga as a whole.

We move in our yoga practice in order to find stillness, this is the really important part, through practicing we come back to that place of peace that exists in us all. For me yoga is about connection, it’s about taking time out from our busy lives and spending time connecting with what’s going on inside, it’s a healing practice.

So here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the years (and continue to do so):

Face your fears

Think of all the things you’ve not done because you’ve been scared of failing, that little voice inside your head managed to talk you out of it – oh yes we all have that voice! The challenge is to silence it, otherwise fear wins.

In our yoga practice inversions can often bring out the fear in us, we are afraid to fall, afraid of what will happen if we do. But falling is just part of the journey, each time we fall we learn from our previous mistakes and our next attempt is improved. I’ve learnt through my practice that we must face our fears and do the things that scare us so that we can become the highest version of ourselves. By stepping outside of our comfort zones we’ll realise that falling is not so scary after all and that it’s necessary to fall so that we can rise even higher. I completed my yoga teacher training at the beginning of this year and this was a huge test for me, I knew that I was going to be challenged and even though the unknown scared me, I also felt a huge desire to be challenged in this way. I was being pulled to push myself and go beyond what I thought was possible to prove that there are no limits to what I can achieve, the only limits are the ones I set! I knew that I needed to have the courage to step outside of my cosy comfort zone to instigate change. By facing fears and listening to my heart I achieved something that I was hugely proud of and something that has changed my life. Let’s make our lives an experiment in personal freedom, let’s break free of limiting beliefs and old patterns by being courageous and honouring this life that we have been given. We can go beyond our fears and it’s here we find our truth, this is where we become and highest version of ourselves – LETS FLY!

Be present

This is a biggy and is encouraged throughout the practice, during our practice we focus our awareness on our breath to help bring us into the present moment and thus quieting the mind. Being present is a powerful tool, life is happening to us in this very moment, it’s all we’ve got right! By being present we can really find the joy in each breath, in each moment and then we open ourselves up to the magic of life.

Embrace your emotions and heal

Quite often in our practice emotions can rise to the surface, these may be old emotions that we’ve supressed or current ones. It’s not uncommon for tears to be released either during or after practicing yoga, this has happened to me on many occasions. I love that yoga allows me to embrace my emotions, tears aren’t a sign of weakness because vulnerability shows strength and yoga allows me to open up my heart and be true to myself. It’s important that we are authentic, I’m a sensitive person at times and that’s fine, I’m learning to be ok with this, to accept myself exactly as I am. Through my practice I am also learning to be the observer, these emotions will pass, they are not who I am, so I try not to get too attached to them, they just need to be seen, accepted and embraced ‘this too shall pass’.

Listening to your body is a massive part of yoga, one of my teachers always used to say to us “you will see that the most experienced yogis take child’s pose a lot during their practice” this is because they listen to their bodies, they don’t compare, they don’t judge, the practice is theirs.

Yoga is deeply healing, through practicing we allow ourselves to slow down and connect with what’s going on inside of our bodies and we give ourselves permission to heal old wounds. Yoga gets you out of your head and into your body, we spend far too much time in our heads, it’s rare in this day and age that we give ourselves this precious time to just be.

Anything is possible

We are capable of so much more than we think we are! Yoga helps show you what you are able to achieve and thus encourages you to believe in yourself. A good example of this is when you are faced with a pose and the words ‘no way’ come into your mind (oh yes that negative self-talk again), however, you practice a little and you see progress, step by step, not rushing the process, that ‘no way’ becomes a ‘maybe’ and then eventually that maybe turns into a ‘hell yes!’. This whole process helps you believe in your own potential, something in you changes when you achieve what you thought wasn’t possible, you are able to see yourself through different eyes and not only that but you now see life through different eyes. Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change, we just need to practice and BELIEVE.

Surrender and let go

Life is a process of surrendering, when we surrender life flows better, we feel a sense of freedom and the universe works its magic. We open ourselves to all sorts of wonderful possibilities that aren’t there when we’re attached to one “right” path. Being able to completely surrender is challenging at times, we like to have control, but when we are able to let go of that control, maybe through softening into a pose, or into life, we create more space and in that space there is a sense of peace with what is.

Accepting where we are and being content with that is a great thing to practice both on and off our mats. We are lucky to live in a world with endless opportunities and it’s definitely an exciting time, but the problem with having all these choices is we become restless. We are not satisfied with what we have because our minds are always racing ahead wondering about the next big thing. We are in a rush and this rush robs the joy from life and denies the freedom of the here and now. We are on an endless quest to find happiness, when the truth is that happiness lies within, we don’t need to look elsewhere, because in this very moment we’ll find that we already have everything that we need. When you’re living in acceptance, you realise everything is complete as it is, you can forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and you feel peace in your heart knowing that everything that should happen will – we just need to trust!

Drop the ego and the judgment

My ego shows up a lot on the mat, this is something that I’m constantly working on as with many of these lessons. It’s really interesting what you learn about yourself on the mat, I’d never really thought about my ego being separate from me, until I starting exploring consciousness and now I get it. Through being really sporty as a child I’ve always been quite competitive, I’m not going to lie, I’ve always liked to be good at things (well my ego has) especially when it comes to sports. I compare myself to others in the way I look and what I have achieved, but what good is that? It serves no purpose at all. I am reminded of this in my practice and once again letting go comes into play, I remind myself that my journey is unique to me and it serves no purpose to compare myself. Goodbye ego and hello freedom!

A great example of my ego taking control is in relation to my yoga teacher training. When my sister suggested I become a teacher I was adamant that my practice wasn’t strong enough to even contemplate this. I now realise that this was my ego getting the better of me, through practice I am able to let go of judgment, I practice silencing my ego and following my heart.

You are not your body

Have you ever contemplated death? I am sure you have, I think we all have, some more than others maybe. I used to panic myself with these thoughts so I would stop them, but this is something that keeps coming up for me and I want to be at peace with this. We were asked to contemplated death at that end of our practice on my yoga training one day, this brought up a whole load of fears for me. The truth is I’m scared shitless (to put it bluntly) about death – I’m actually writing another post dedicated solely to this because it’s a biggy right. I don’t want to have a fear surrounding death, I want to feel at peace with this. I know I have a massive attachment to my body and I need to let go of this in order for me to feel at peace with me someday leaving it. It’s a work in progress, as is everything, but yoga really helps me to let go of any attachments I have, including the attachment to my body. When we are able to access a higher state of consciousness through practicing and meditating we realise that we are so much more than this vessel we have been gifted. I am slowly starting to believe that I am much more than this body and that brings me some peace when thinking about being faced with death.

The Breath can heal

“All knowledge is available to us within each breath if we are but aware enough to recognise it” – David Swenson

The breath is a crucial part of our yoga practice, we bring awareness to the breath throughout the practice as we synchronise breath and movement. A favourite quote of mine is ‘Yoga without breath is like a body without soul’ this quote really helps show you the importance of the breath. The breath is the essence of the practice, without it we are not practicing yoga.

Through my practice I’ve been shown how healing the breath is, in particular I have been shown how using the breath can calm the mind, reducing stress and anxiety. Last year I started suffering with panic attacks and anxiety, this was something very new to me. When I had my first panic attack I was so scared and then after the attack came the worry and upset. Whilst doing a little research I saw something online that said ‘if you suffer from anxiety you’re not living in the present’ and this makes perfect sense. People don’t panic in the present, people panic when they imagine something bad happening to them in the future or maybe recalling the past. This really helped me deal with my anxiety, whenever I feel a little anxious, I use my breath to become present, I bring my awareness into my body and feel the weight of my body being supported by the earth, here I feel safe. This simple exercise helps my re-connect with that space, that’s always there inside of me (and you too) where peace resides – “You cannot breathe deeply and worry” true!!

So here are my little insights from my yoga journey so far, I’m constantly being shown more about myself and what changes I can make in order to feel at peace and also how to live from my heart space more and more. Yoga is here to show us the way, to bring us home to ourselves, we learn so much from being on the mat, each time something new. Yoga shows us how changeable energy is and that we can’t hold onto anything, each day on the mat is different as is each day on this earth, that’s what makes this life, in each moment so beautiful.

‘Practice and all is coming’

Namaste my loves

Vanessa xxx