When I first started practicing yoga many moons ago, I didn’t really think it would have much impact on my life away from the mat. Boy was I wrong! But I’ve never been happier about being wrong.
Yoga helped me combat stress and anxiety.
I’ve always been a bit anxious but by the time I was in my last year at university I was battling both anxiety and high stress levels. Yoga taught me to breathe, to soften where I was holding tension and to let go. It wasn’t something that magically happened overnight but through regular practice I was able to cope a lot better. I’m much better today at identifying when I’m starting to feel anxious or stressed and often a simple, quick meditation or breathing practice will help.
Yoga gave me family in a new country.
We moved to a city and country we had never set foot in. It was difficult initially trying to settle down without family or friends to support us. Luckily I was practicing with a great group of people who soon became my surrogate family. We’ve been through heartaches, health scares, tragedy and babies together. Having that support and friendship means so much to me and has made my life all the more richer.
Yoga taught me to live in the moment.
My yoga teacher often tells us to let go of all expectations when we step on the mat; to focus on our body and breath in that moment and to let go of what we were able to do yesterday. This really rang true for me when one morning I was finally able to get into headstand only to find myself in the emergency room that night due to appendicitis. This meant letting go of what my yoga practice was and changing it completely to suit my body at that moment as it recovered from surgery. I’ve also learned to do the same in my life off the mat. Dwelling on what could have been or what could happen takes away what is really happening in the present. You can’t change the past and you can’t really control the future, so rather be present in the moment now and enjoy it.
Yoga taught me body awareness.
Yoga has taught me to listen to my body. I’m much quicker now to pick up on subtle changes and can adapt my practice accordingly in order to avoid injury. It’s also taught me to respect my body and that it’s not going to be the same each day. Some days back bends are easier than others and that’s ok. It’s just another opportunity to explore my practice in a different way.
Yoga made me a better person.
I know, this one probably sounds like a cliché but it’s true. Yoga has really made me a more compassionate person. I’m also much more relaxed so way less likely to blow up at someone when something goes wrong. Bugs that I previously would have squished now get caught in a container (albeit gingerly) and then get released outside. I make a point of smiling and greeting people I pass in the street and pick up litter whenever I see some. Yoga has really taught me that we are all connected and by doing small things you can really make a positive difference.
Has your yoga practice had any influence on your life off the mat? Let me know how in the comment section below.