Bend, Stretch, Breathe – My Yoga Journey

Yoga is not new to me. I own several yoga DVDs, I’ve followed along with countless YouTube yoga videos from my home, and I own a few yoga mats, a wheel, and some other accessories. Many elements of pole dancing are akin to yoga, too, so “doing” yoga isn’t like stepping into foreign territory.

But a yoga practice is.

Here’s the difference:

In the past decade, as I’ve outfitted myself in stretchy pants and flowy tanks, pulled out and placed my mat, and moved my body according to a yogi’s commands for chaturangas and single-legged dogs, I have simply been going through the motions of yoga, as if I was merely mimicking the yogi on screen. I’d pull on my ankle in an effort to make my leg stretch out straighter for a pose, I’d force myself deeper into pigeon pose and silently order my body to just do a split already (a command my body didn’t obey because it couldn’t), and I’d compare what my asanas looked like with the ones I’d seen on Pinterest, often coming down on myself for not looking as great as the person in the picture did – a person who had most likely been in the practice for years and had time to really refine their version pose. My physical manifestation was there, but yoga requires more than just the physical in order for you to experience it fully.

Beyond what the physical body does, yoga is a mental and spiritual shift, and I’ve been craving a mental and spiritual shift for years now. I turned toward this shift with my Life Reset in 2016 as I started plucking away the pieces from my life that I didn’t want anymore, but once I’d stripped down my life to what now remains, I didn’t know how to start the journey to find what I wanted to fill the new space with. Mindfulness, presence, stillness, focus, inner peace – I wanted all of these, but I didn’t know how to go about nurturing them for myself. The important element here is that I didn’t want to just assimilate into someone else’s version of those things – I wanted to develop versions of my own. After all, these were to be permanent structures in my life, not just a passing fad or phase. I wanted to refine my soul permanently as a critical piece of my arsenal for use in this very broken, devastating world we live in.

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So, I had a long talk with myself where I told the woman in the mirror to cut the BS and actually do this right. I bought some books and started reading. I pulled out my pen and notebook and started writing down the goals I had, the breakthroughs I wanted, and the outcomes I longed for. I shed the need to do this for someone else, or like someone else, and focused solely on just being me on this journey. I stepped to the mat, I let my soul lead, and slowly, my inner lotus flower began to bloom.

Instead of punishing myself for not being more flexible, not nailing the pose the way someone else could, or not having as much strength, I surrendered to what my body could do. I stepped through the looking glass in a way to instead see my asanas as beautiful representation of what I was capable of rather than what I was not.  I began thanking my body for all it had done for me, thus lowering the volume on the negative internal chatter I’d given rise to in the past.

And suddenly, I was practicing yoga.

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And “practicing” yoga is very different from just “doing” yoga.

The metamorphosis spans much deeper than just what I do on the mat as well. Through yoga I am learning to embrace patience over agitation, acceptance over resistance, and gratitude for what is, rather than an insatiable thirst for more of what’s not. The physical is still there; my arms and shoulders are getting stronger, my legs and hips are becoming more flexible, and my ability to center and find balance is improving. Those are ancillary perks. The true gift comes from the beauty that I am experiencing internally from treating this centuries-old practice with respect, love, and ambition. As I let my soul lead me through this practice, I’m finding out more about just what I am truly capable of, which in turn helps me to be a better wife, mom, leader, and friend.

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