When I started practicing Hot Yoga at the age of 23 in an inpatient rehab facility, I had no idea the lessons that Yoga, sobriety, and getting older would teach me in tandem.
Yes, Yoga is movement and “exercise”, and the Yoga we practice in particular is quite physically challenging. So many of the lessons I have learned have cut right to the core of my being: my mind, my emotions, and the way that I operate in the world and with others. I hope that you are able to stick around long enough to experience your own deep lessons through the practice.
1. We all have our struggles
I know this might not be mind-blowing, however, getting to a place in my life where I had burned enough down to end up in my 4th drug and alcohol rehab really made me think that I might be a little bit more messed up than other people. And while in my own particular way that may be true, being around enough people in the Yoga room has shown me that we are all dealing with something. Whether it be an angry lower back, a divorce, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, distrust, body image issues, or a million other things. Every single person in your Yoga class is there for a reason that they are looking to heal (whether they know it tangibly or not.) It can be so easy to glance at others in class and think “man, their standing bow looks like they really have their life together.” But I encourage you to imagine that you are just one part of a whole entity that is growing, and evolving, and trudging through some of life’s hardships.
2. It’s Okay to do less
I talk about this often in class’ one of the biggest game changers to not only my practice but also my relationship with my practice, was learning that it’s okay to do less. It’s even okay to do almost nothing. Most of us who walk through the doors of Pure and find hot yoga are really wonderful at pushing ourselves really hard. We are also really wonderful at being hard on ourselves. That combined with the perceived intensity of the class can lead to an “all or nothing” mentality. When I inevitably can’t do everything perfectly (despite pushing with all my might), I found that I would take that as a testament to my own self-worth. And that’s not what we are here for! When I allowed myself to start small, just do a little half-moon, try to find a more healing (but not as deep) backbend, I actually felt really good! In class and outside of class! And it made me feel like I was in control of my practice and my practice and inevitable shortcomings weren’t in control of me.
3. Turning our minds off is the most beautiful thing
Do you know why the dialogue works? There are a bunch of ways, but one of the most important is that it eliminates the need for us to make decisions. Not sure what to do with your thumb? We will tell you. Not sure how far to step? We will tell you. That elimination of the chatter that surrounds decision-making really enables space. Space for us to breathe. Space for us to let go. And space for our mind to finally rest. When you can really follow the words, without attaching too much analysis to them, and let your body do it’s best to match them, a really beautiful thing happens. And it’s called silence.
4. Everyone is rooting for you
Are you brand new and worried that you are too “this” or not enough “that”? Have you been doing this for a long time and frustrated because you feel like you should be somewhere (or someone) else by now? I want you to know that every teacher, and every student wants you to see what we all see in you. You falling isn’t frustrating any of us. We would love to see you wear the shorts that you want to wear that you’ve been afraid to because you think they don’t look good on you. We all want to burst out in applause when you are finally able to look at yourself in your own eyes in the mirror. This space is a place for personal walls to be broken down. And while they are personal, we are all also here to support you.
5. Everything with Awareness
Do you stay still in savasana? Do you know whether you move or stay still? The beauty isn’t necessarily in being still, it’s in having the awareness to know whether you are wiggling out of habit, or whether you are making a conscious choice to move. If there is a hair in your eye, by all means you can wipe it away. But do you spend the entirety of the space between your postures fidgeting with no real purpose? It’s okay if you do! But starting to notice yourself, your habits, and your tendencies is all a really interesting part of this practice. It is sometimes easier to focus on improving our Eagle pose than it is to turn our attention inward and start to ask questions about ourselves. But try not to miss the opportunity to get to know yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Can you think of lessons that your practice has taught you that you weren’t expecting? We would love to keep this list going and to all learn from each other’s experiences. Happy practicing 🙂