There’s a huge list of things we can learn from practicing yoga. Actually, there are several lists – literally! They are called the Yoga Sutras, and they were handed down by Patanjali, printed, and published in book format all over the place.
But here are a few of the amazing lessons we know you can learn and benefit from without having to read the books! All you have to do is show up on your mat and be present. How do I know? Because I learnt them that way too!
Physical poses improve our self-confidence and in turn our ability to trust ourselves, inside and out. Building the understanding that you are in fact strong enough to hold specific shapes for long periods of time is not just physical; it becomes quite internal, and that growth can help you develop a huge amount of trust in your own capabilities off the mat.
After a while we learn how to listen to our bodies and prevent an injury, or help heal one. Getting to know your body is one of the biggest benefits of long-term yoga practice. More than that, yoga grooms you to listen attentively to all those messages that the body sends you so you don’t get hurt.
Breathing into challenging moments can be a saving grace! And not just when you’re doing Full Lotus Pose with tight hips! Just breathing lets us tackle awkward conversations with family members, parking lot interactions, exams, public speaking events, even MRIs! We learn how to hit the reset button by taking a few three-part breaths to feel enveloped in that safe, calm yoga blanket
4. Overcome Challenges
Ever notice how often the hardest part of any yoga class is showing up at all? Yoga teaches us that often the hardest part is taking the first step. But we do it, because we understand the benefits to be gained. That first step towards something you really want or need in life is a step on the path to happiness and success.
5. Find Contentment
Yoga helps us find happiness with what we have rather than clinging to an ideal, or constantly grasping at something that perhaps is not meant to be. Taking a step back, looking at what you have, and realising that you are content with that can shift the entire focus of your life and lead you towards a more pleasurable day-to-day existence.
It’s easy to waste time focusing on what we don’t have. We say “I want a child,” when there are dozens of nieces and nephews under our care. We say “I want to be wealthy,” when we are surrounded by an abundance of love. We must understand that sometimes what we ask for, we already have – just in other formats.
Yoga teaches us to forgive ourselves and others. It doesn’t make anyone’s actions more right; it just liberates each of us from any resentment or anger over something that cannot be changed. We learn from it, forgive it, and move on. Forgiveness doesn’t change the past – but it most definitely changes the future.
7. Accept Imperfection
We are not perfect; no one is. In fact, it is totally okay to fail, and fall, and stumble. We are all learning, and our yoga practice is a wonderful way to stay in that mindset and keep going. Once you nail a shape, you are given a deeper place to take it… it is never perfect, and it never ends.
8. Slow Down
Yoga teaches us how to move mindfully, make decisions mindfully, breathe, and take a moment to find clarity in a fast-paced world.
Yoga teaches us that just as we must find balance in our body during certain poses, we must seek balance in our lives.
It’s hard to see what’s really going on in a yoga class just by peeking through the window or sitting in the corner. The big lessons happen when you are committing to the moment on your mat, breathing, and making space for all that abundance to really fill you up. The best way to learn anything from your practice is just to show up, be open, and do the work.
Image credit: Odette Hughes