By: Sarah Young
Have you ever noticed that when you start a new exercise routine how hard it is? When I began practicing yoga, I remember thinking “I can’t do this” or “how in the world am I supposed to do that?” as I watched the rest of the class seem to move effortlessly from one pose to the next. Many people have this notion that yoga is simply a bunch of stretches and not a “real” workout, but I could barely hold poses for even 10 seconds without needing to return to the resting “child’s” pose.
During each class, I would wonder why I kept coming back – it felt like torture! Soon, however, I started to notice it got easier and I could challenge myself more. My body learned to be open and flexible, and my mind learned how to be present. I practiced my breathing and focused on the “here and now” rather than the millions of things crowding my brain. I became more in tune with my mind, body, and soul while I learned where my limits were and then pushed them.
I moved into each yoga pose until it hurt – not painfully, just uncomfortably – so that as I stretched, I could break down the muscle to allow it room to grow back stronger. I learned to breathe through the pain, and I even began looking forward to the pain I felt after my classes because then I knew I had a good workout!
I determined I also needed to let go of my expectations as I there were times I needed to accept when I physically could not achieve a pose that I had performed many times prior. Sometimes, my body needed more rest than I was allowing it.
I maintained a steady yoga practice for a few years, going to class three days a week, until my circumstances changed, and I fell out of routine. Within a few months, I began to feel the effect of my nearly nonexistent yoga practice. I could feel my body slowly closing in on itself and I lost the flexibility to perform many of the poses I once did with ease.
I now realize that when my yoga practice diminished, I effectively reversed the growth I had accomplished through the hundreds of classes and workshops I attended to improve my practice. The Law of Perpetual Transmutation states that everything is continually coming into form or going out of it. I once heard it stated, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Yoga has taught me many things – including how to take what I learned on the mat and apply those lessons to other aspects of my life. One of the best lessons I gained from my experience, however, is that I have a choice when to reverse direction. The mat is always waiting for me.
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