WHAT MY YOGA PRACTICE TEACHES ME
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As a youth, I danced. I danced at home and I danced in a classroom. Movement was vital to me. It calmed my anxious nerves and brought unknown creative expression to my being. After college, I stopped dancing. All through my twenties, after a major car accident and a late diagnosis of scoliosis, I suffered back pain. Finding yoga brought relief and replaced dance as my form of movement and creative expression.
Off and on I practiced yoga, finding an inner calm and spiritual connection from this deeply ancient and sacred art. Then life happened. I had a child. My yoga practice came to an abrupt halt, as I juggled between motherhood and working full-time in a corporate career. Three years later, we adopted a child from Guatemala that needed extra care and attention. As a mother, I placed my needs aside and jumped full-on into parenting, ending my
20-year career. My yoga practice was a distant memory, only attempted occasionally at home.
As my children turn into teenagers, I have reconnected with myself and my yoga practice. Patience is the first lesson of yoga. Following breath, patience returns. Yoga teaches patience. Patience to slow down in Savasana, or Corpse Pose, at the end of a session. Patience when learning new poses. Patience with your body and mind as it flows through more difficult poses or asanas. There is no impatience in yoga. As patience comes through practice, patience flows out into your life. You realize that you are impatient less often. Life is calmer and more relaxed, even peaceful.
I began yoga primarily to gain flexibility, especially in my back. In a Forward Bend Pose, a basic yoga position, you learn to release tension in your back, neck, and shoulders. This pose allows your body to hang however it needs to, whether touching the floor or touching your knees. Yoga encourages flexibility, a much-needed life skill. Life does not happen the way we plan; flexibility is necessary to move and flow through life. Without it, life is reactionary and chaotic. In being flexible, you can learn to enjoy the adventure that life offers.
Yoga offers balance and strength, whether it is in a Warrior III Pose or a Plank asana. Yoga allows us space to practice poses they we may not like, but we know are valuable for our mind, body, and spirit. In Warrior III, the yogi stands on one leg, while the opposite leg floats back and off the floor. Focus, concentration, and calm are extracted from the inner spirit. These three skills are difficult in our world, with constant stimuli from all areas and aspects of living. Again, yoga helps to bring these traits into our daily living. It gives us the strength and balance to tackle new ideas without fear.
Lastly, in yoga, you have to adapt. Adaptability is critical in yoga and life. In yoga, you are not required to practice a certain way for a specific pose. Every pose can be adjusted to fit your needs, at any given moment. Your practice is your own, just as your life is your own. Poses and life can always be adapted. Whether you suffer from chronic or acute physical pain, there is an adaption that can be made, just as there is also a more challenging aspect of each pose. Yoga mirrors life. Animals learn to adapt to survive. We need to adapt as circumstances change constantly. Nothing stays the same. Adaption is a key to survival.
A critical lesson in life, is to own your own life. In yoga, it is nothing but you: your body, your mind, your spirit, and the mat. This is your sacred space to practice life, the physical, mental, and spiritual skills required, to awaken and expand your conscious awareness. Give yoga a try whether you are new to the practice or a returning veteran. It is never too late to learn to be flexible, strong, balanced, and adaptable.
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Susan J. McFarland