More than ten years ago, during a time of great personal uncertainty and challenges in my life, I decided to take a series of yoga classes at my local YMCA. I learned many things about myself through those classes and, in honor of September being National Yoga Month, I will share five things I learned (and continue to learn) from yoga.
1. Patience. My closest friends will tell you I’m a pretty patient person, however they don’t sit with me in my car stuck in Chicago traffic. During those moments, you can find me occasionally cursing like a sailor, yelling and muttering to myself in disbelief. One thing I can remember vividly from taking those classes is when class was over and I returned to my car, I felt patient. Honestly, I didn’t care about being right or getting cut off in traffic. Gone was my need to speed up and get to the next destination in a hurry.
2. Flexibility. This is obvious…the more stretching you do, the more flexible you’ll get. One of the first things I noticed when I started doing yoga is how different I felt when I walked. I felt taller and my legs felt stronger – like I had a carefree bounce to my step. But I’ll argue that, as much as yoga helps you to become more flexible in a physical sense, it helps you to become more flexible mentally. I can’t explain it, but this has always been true for me. It feels like my ego takes a back seat to a better version of me when I do yoga.
3. Comfort. Prior to taking a yoga class, I had a number of problems with my neck and back. I kept pulling muscles every time I carried in groceries and I once had an allergic sneeze attack that was so painful, I needed to see a chiropractor. After a series of visits to my chiropractor and physical therapist, I decided to take my yoga class. The process of doing my exercises and yoga has helped me to be pain free. It’s difficult to put a price on comfort.
4. Inner Peace. In addition to patience, I feel a sense of inner peace from doing yoga. I think a good part of this is because of yoga’s focus on the breath and the present moment. Yoga is very meditative and it grounds you. I’ve learned that, even though the world can often feel busy and chaotic, yoga helps me feel at peace despite all the forces that are pulling me in different directions.
5. Bliss. Quite simply, I feel happier when I do yoga. Enough said.
I still do yoga stretches just about every day. I cannot tell you how great it is to start the day doing the sun salutation pose. But, sometimes when I do my stretches at home, I forget to breathe properly. One thing that’s great about yoga classes is the constant reminder of your breath. I don’t know how a yoga teacher feels about this, but yoga poses without the focus on your breathing is more like stretching.
It has been more than ten years since I’ve taken a yoga class and I hope to get back to “class” soon. I’ll never forget how my classes got me through some rough times and opened my eyes to a new reality. If you haven’t tried yoga or you feel a little “out of sorts,” I’d highly recommend taking a class. Usually these classes are drop-in and cost roughly $10 and even free at some locations.
How about you: do you yoga? If so, what’s your favorite pose?