One of my favorite things about yoga is that every lesson I have ever learned on my mat can easily be translated into life outside of yoga class.
The other week to begin class, our instructor, Mary, informed us that the sequences of asanas (postures) we would be doing would be slightly longer and a little more elaborate than normal. She made sure to stress that all of us should go through each sequence in our own time.
“Go at your own pace. Stop for water, if you need to. You can drop into child’s pose at any time, if you need to. We are here to practice as a community, not as competition. It does not matter if someone next to you is going faster or slower than you. Go at your own speed; do what feels right for your body. Feel each pose. Finish in your own time, we will all meet at the end of the flow together.”
As I moved through my asanas, I made sure to really focus on myself, on my own pace, and making sure that I was going deep enough in my poses to really FEEL the pose before moving on. Some yogis were going much faster, some much slower; some were almost in rhythm with me. Some yogis would break every so often for water, some skipped through certain asanas altogether, some hit modified versions of the postures, and some yogis could hit certain poses better than others. While I could notice all of these things out of my peripheral vision, it did not affect my own flow. It did not affect my thoughts. I was focused on me, my flow, and my mat. I was focused on my pace and my asanas alone.
Breathe in, breathe out. Go into Warrior I, feel good here? Yes. Okay. Time to go into Warrior II. Ready for the next posture? Go ahead. Oh, this stretch feels good… Sit in this posture a little longer. Okay, now let’s move onto the next.
When you’re in yoga class, you may struggle with some postures – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t meant for yoga or that you aren’t good enough for yoga. You may be more skilled at certain yoga practices than others, and vice versa. That is the beauty of yoga; it doesn’t care for perfection… only intention and effort. Yoga is for everyone. Life is for everyone.
Go at your own pace.
I am 26 years old; there are things in my life that I have accomplished that others have not. And in turn, there are some milestones I have yet to hit because my focus has been on various other aspects of my life. There are times when I find myself in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B; there are also times I desire a slow pace and wish to take my time. In the last three and a half years since I have been in the “real world,” I have very much found myself and what my heart beats for. I have found passion and fire within my soul. I have realized what is really important to me and what I want out of my life. I know that I have yet to reach my full potential. I have recognized there is still so much room for self-improvement and growth. I have reclaimed my self-worth and I know that I don’t need to settle (PSA: no one needs to settle, you deserve nothing less than extraordinary in ALL aspects of your life).
If you want to take a “gap year” after college to travel and see the world, then by all means – do it! If you want to spend your 20s immersed in work and climbing up the corporate ladder to make sure that you can “coast” into your 30s, do that. If you want to get married and start a family as soon as possible, go for it. You choose the speed at which you chase after your dreams. You are in control. Don’t feel pressured to match anyone else’s speed or intensity in ANY area of life.
Every one of us will experience life and love (and yoga) at our own pace.
Stop for water, if you need to. You can drop into child’s pose at any time, if you need to.
Don’t be afraid to make a pit stop or take a detour on your life journey. Throughout your life, different things will end up taking priority. It may be love, school, a new career, entrepreneurship, a social life, or new hobbies. There are countless things that can come up, some unexpectedly, that will take precedence over things that were once really important to you. That’s okay. Allow yourself to have these phases of focus. Giving yourself the ability to readjust your priorities from time to time just ensures that you’re giving adequate time to develop yourself in multiple aspects of life: social, physical, occupational, etc.
There have been many times in my life that I have prioritized both people and things differently. I have accomplished so much, including (but not limited to): a college degree, a promising career, my own website, competing (three times and currently preparing for show number four), and a side business in the works. Each of these successes came in their own time and it was necessary to dedicate my attention to each separately. I have chosen a different path than others. I have spent my post-graduate life focusing strictly on self-development and growth. The last two years, in particular, have been dedicated to training and dieting for bodybuilding competitions. I don’t see this as a loss or as a waste of time (as I probably won’t be competing forever), just simply a stop (or a detour rather) on my journey in life. This has only strengthened me as a person. It has improved my will-power and discipline, solidified my values and my relationship with God, and raised my self-esteem making me very aware of my worth.
Where I have chosen to dedicate my time to bodybuilding, many others have chosen careers or love or travel instead. Whether they are full speed ahead, taking a pit stop, or on a detour (like me) it makes no matter. We create our own paths and as long as we love the one that we have chosen for ourselves, that is all that matters.
We are here to practice as a community, not as competition.
Life is not a competition. It is not a race. You may have chosen to focus on a career, multiple degrees, traveling the world, bodybuilding, starting a family, or maybe you aren’t sure what you are focusing on at all. We are all just trying to go through life and find our place in this world. Let’s just focus on supporting the people in our lives, no matter their path. We are here to empower and support others on their journeys. We are here for form friendships and relationships and community. We are not here to compete with each other.
Each person has their own perception of life and success and happiness, there are no winners or losers. All that matters is your own happiness and your own success. We all have our own benchmarks for what “winning” or “losing” is – but, no one else can live our life for us. It’s just us, alone, so we shouldn’t compare others to our own benchmarks or expectations, nor should they compare us to theirs.
It does not matter if someone next to you is going faster or slower than you. Go at your own speed; do what feels right for your body.
As individuals, we simply reach different milestones at different times in our lives. Everyone is on a different chapter of life. Certain chapters may come earlier for some (a chapter of love, success, career changes, etc.) and later for others and that is perfectly fine. Faster or slower, makes no difference to me, as it does not affect the speed at which I am going through life. I am in control.
Feel each pose.
Be present. Live in the moment. Soak it all in. How do you feel right now? What sensations are moving through your body? How is your breathing? Are you currently present? Or are you just going through the motions? These are thoughts I constantly have as I’m doing yoga. How amazing would it be if I was this aware of myself, my feelings, and my surroundings at all times of the day?
Make it a priority to FEEL. Live with the intent to be ALIVE in each beautiful moment that you are given.
Finish in your own time, we will all meet at the end of the flow together.
Take it from, Mary, it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your flow, or your life journey, you can take a break for water or child’s pose, you can speed up, slow down, it doesn’t matter. We will all finish in our own time, and that’s more than okay. We are there to be a community. We are there for the camaraderie. We are not there to compete with one another. We are there to look inward; to focus on our body and our mat and find ourselves.
It was a one hour yoga class that was meant to deepen my yoga practice, but it brought so much more than that… it brought me the reassurance that my journey is mine alone and that I can move forward in life just as I would like. I am in control and I can change my path or my speed at my own will. I need not be in any rush if I do not so desire. I’m in competition with no one. I’m doing what feels right for me. I’ll get there when I get there, and until then… I’ll just continue to focus on being present in each moment and making the most out of the experience.
This was a very eye-opening class for me, since you weren’t there to experience it with me… I hope this post helps you open your own eyes to your own path. I won’t lie, y’all, this post was very soul-satisfying for me to write, so… selfishly, I’d like to make this a series and enable myself to write more as these lessons come to fruition in my yoga practice. Keep an eye out for more Life Lessons from Yoga on the blog!
What life lessons have you learned in yoga? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.