- Integrity—Your yoga teacher can’t tell if you’re pressing each knuckle firmly into the mat and suctioning the center of your palm upward. You’re doing this action to protect your wrists and to keep your body in alignment. Likewise, in life, no one has a monitor (some metaphoric angel/devil combo on their shoulder, your boss, your mom) who makes sure you’re living the life you desire with the ethics you support.
- Protecting yourself allows you to reach out—In yoga, we always engage our muscles inward before we stretch outward. This protects the joints and prevents injury. Likewise, in life, before you go rushing to give help (first aid, advice, any sort of help!) it’s important to first make sure you are safe.
- Doing your best—Are you working to get your thigh parallel to the floor in warrior 2, or are you able to? Only you know if you’re performing to the level that is appropriate to your practice. I used to have a teacher who would tell me to reach my best place into each pose, and then go only one percent past that. In doing this, my practice gradually improved. This technique can be applied to anything else that matters in your life. A small action, taken daily, can lead to amazing achievements.
- But knowing your limitations—Some days we all get exhausted from too much work, too much exercise, too many demands from family, children, careers, etc. Some days you'll need a break and it can be a perfect moment to take a child’s pose rather than flowing through those extra vinyasa sequences. This skill will help you know when you need a vacation (or maybe just a mental health day!).
- Your thoughts and your actions matter—If you’ve ever set a positive intention at the beginning of a yoga class, you know how good it can make you feel. Sometimes, after a positively intended practice, I feel my whole day shift into a more hopeful, positive light. Likewise, taking the time to do an act of kindness, or to think positive thoughts in the morning, can shift your perspective and make positive changes in yourself and the world.
- Recognizing what you have control over (and what you don’t)—Okay, so you may have
control over whether you choose to do yoga, or, once there, whether you choose to practice with integrity. But you don't control whether you’re naturally strong or flexible, how long your arms are, or exactly why your leg can’t get to that place that it got to just last week. Likewise, in life, we can control our actions, our responses, and to an extent, our thoughts, but we can’t always control our circumstances.
- Radically accepting what is (and then making positive steps from there)—We come to our mats to accept where we are at that moment, and we do our practice to improve upon that, however slightly, day by day. Likewise, in life it does no good to wish that circumstances are different. Rather, it is beneficial to see things as they are, and to take positive steps from there.
What life lessons has your yoga practice taught you? I’d love to know!