Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (2013)
By Melissa Doman, M.A.
I don’t even need to begin to tell you we live in an overworked, frenetic, stressful society. The concept of “work-life balance,” while spoken about frequently, is hard for most to achieve since we live in a society that doesn’t hold it as a top value.
While many of you have heard that yoga is good as a relaxation tool to help deal our Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps culture, and is a great way to keep you in shape, yoga can also equip you with great emotional skill tools for everyday living.
Think of both your mind and body as tape recorders. Everything that occurs around you gets recorded and stored in both your subconscious mind and your body (i.e. neck & back muscles, stomach, etc.). All of that stuff that clutters up our precious mind-body space needs somewhere to go or it’ll eventually overflow. By overflow, I mean make you feel tired, rundown, sad, physically sluggish, have disrupted sleep – the list goes on. The awesome thing about yoga is that not only does it physically rid of you of your body’s built up stress, but the emotional strength it takes to be dedicated to yoga practice encourages emotional development as well.
There's numerous psychological tools that are both needed and cultivated through yoga practice that are easily translatable into every day life.
Here are 5 great skills you can pick up from yoga that can translate really well into other areas of your life:
1. It’s called yoga PRACTICE, not yoga expert.
With trying any new exercise or skill, it'll take time, patience, and avoiding self-criticism. To try something new and be vulnerable (i.e. not being perfect) takes courage and self-acceptance. This skill is super useful since we're often our own worst critics. When you get into those warrior 2 or downward dog positions, don’t forget to remind yourself that even though it may feel uncomfortable, and your posture doesn’t look like the sleek lady on the cover of Yoga Journal, that’s totally cool because it’s your yoga practice and no one else’s.
2. People seem to forget that some yoga positions are TOUGH.
Some of those positions are bordering on contortionism and take some serious guts to get into. The tools developed here are resiliency and adaptability. If you’re trying to get into a flying dancer pose and find yourself toppled over on the ground and confused, guess what, you’re not the first person and certainly won’t be the last do that. With pain comes growth and occasional set backs….which is ok! The group Chumbawamba said it best when they chanted Tubthumping, “I get knocked down, but I get up again!” Life throws obstacles at us everyday that challenge you. If it seems hard and you’re struggling, just push through, and you’ll see the fruits of your labor. Learning to tolerate discomfort is a necessary skill for navigating life.
3. Be in the now. Let me repeat that - be in the now (stop looking forwards or backwards).
One of the best things about yoga is it encourages you to be nowhere but in that room, on your mat, listening to the tunes of Krishna Das and feeling your squishy yoga mat underneath your toes. Check the world at the door. That ongoing feud with your friend, that long email you have to send, preparing for a presentation on Thursday, will all be fine if you don’t focus on it for just one hour. Yoga encourages us to practice mindfulness in everyday living. You’ll find that the skill of mindfulness can serve to keep you grounded in times of turmoil when the world is racing as NASCAR speeds around you.
4. Appreciate the simple beauty of things. Yogis say it with me: Ohmmmmmm.
Have you looked at how elegant you appear in the mirror when you’re gracefully reaching up to the sky and elongating your body during tree pose to the sounds of Zen Grooves? Talk about gorgeous! Watching your body move while listening to sounds that enter your ears like velvet is a beautiful experience. The skill you can pick up here is learning how to appreciate the simple beauty around you. Whether it’s sprawling out on the grass looking up at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds, or watching purple flowers as they rustle in a breeze, remember to slow down and appreciate the natural beauty around you.
5. Anything that’s good is worth fighting for.
If you want to achieve something great, it takes dedication. If you want to see yourself improve at yoga, you better believe it’s gonna take some time. I’ve been practicing yoga for 6-7 years and I still mess up. But, here’s the thing. Since being an expert isn’t my goal, I accept myself for where I’m at now and only strive to improve against my own measures of progress – no one else’s. The skill that can be taken away from this is perseverance. Things worth fighting for happen over the course of a marathon, not a sprint.
I hope you’ve found these ideas to be helpful for you, your yoga practice, and how you view any conundrums that are thrown at you. Don’t let the thought of being new to yoga or physically inflexible stop you. Everybody has to start somewhere. Like anything else, you’ll progress and become more flexible over time. Isn’t that the life lesson that we are supposed to take away from yoga anyway?
Happy stretching yogis!