Upon the first week of moving to LA, I wrote an organic yoga rap parody, “Namaste, Bitches,” to make light of the yoga world in which I found myself.
By the end of my five months in LA, my friends joked that I had become my own parody because, in an unexpected turn of events, I fell in love with yoga after writing the rap. Now, yoga is a vital part of my daily routine.
My mind always runs in 100 different directions. I tend to either dwell on past moments and wonder what could have been, or have so many ideas for the future that the ideas paralyze me and I don't end up getting anything done.
I moved to LA after graduating from college and ending a relationship. I had lost a bit of myself and was reeling from the feeling of amputating someone out of my life. I needed to escape my pangs of inadequacy and emptiness, which manifested into dark shadows over my spirit every morning.
I went to my first yoga class in hopes of stilling my mind a bit. I viewed it as something to do once every month or two as a sort of physical and mental detox.
During the first class, I was a little impatient as I kept falling out of postures while everyone stood fierce and focused around me. Even so, I left the class feeling more energized than when I walked in.
I was hooked. I realized that yoga, while sometimes having a stigma as an obnoxious, main-streamed way of trying to be spiritual is, at its core, a very powerful tool that allows us to tap into our inner spiritual and physical potential.
At my first yoga class, I was given a yoga towel to roll over my mat.
The words, “Every day, in every way, I am stronger,” were embroidered at the top of the towel. I now think of that phrase every morning when I wake up.
Although the original yoga sutras were developed 2,000 years ago, many people don't realize that, until 100 years ago, yoga was mainly about focusing on breath and meditation to escape worldly sensations and move closer to connecting one's individual consciousness with the consciousness of the world, to move closer to nirvana.
The postures developed in yoga in recent centuries (the “asana” or physical practice of yoga is only one of the eight limbs of yoga) were designed to prepare the body to be able to sit in stillness for extended periods of time in meditation.
Even as yoga has, in many places, morphed into a type of physical activity, I found that it has influenced my perspective of the type of person I want to be and how I live my life.
I recently got my 200-hour yoga teacher certification, not only to be able to share my love of yoga with others, but also to have a deeper understanding of the spiritual aspects and roots of yoga. I love the idea that in yoga, all the strength you need, you find within yourself.
All the flexibility and space you create in each posture is also found within yourself. The more you open your heart (literally and figuratively), the more open you are to receiving and giving love and energy to those around you.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways from yoga, thus far:
1. Release to receive
In yoga postures, you often breathe into the pain or tension of a pose. While this can initially cause discomfort, the more you lean into the pose head on, the easier the pose becomes in the long run.
It creates more space, it releases tension in that area of the body, and it makes you feel as if you let something go. In life, sometimes we are unable to love to our fullest because we hold on to something that no longer serves us or brings us happiness.
While it is hard to let this person or thing go, once we do, we realize that in doing so, we become able to receive more love and energy from other aspects of our lives.
A quote I often associate with this is, “The shell must break before the bird can fly.”
2. You have to love yourself if you expect others to love you
As my yoga teacher said to us, “We are all the connections and completions to our own existence.”
We are often hard on ourselves, placing so many mental and physical demands on our bodies and then beating ourselves up for not eating well or not being productive enough or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.
Yoga helped me see that the only life over which I have direct control is my own. The person I spend the most time with is myself. I should be kind to myself and love myself in order to be able to love other people to the best of my ability.
Similarly, I will never know if what I do impresses other people. I should first aim to impress myself by pushing myself to places I didn't think I could go.
When you feel confident in how you spend your time and how you treat yourself, your relationships with other people will fall into place, too.
3. All the space, flexibility and strength you need is inside of you, waiting to be used
When making excuses about why they could never do yoga, people often say “I'm not flexible enough” or “I could never do a headstand, I would be the worst person in the class.” Six months ago, I could also barely touch my toes, and now, I have my splits.
Even if that wasn't the case, yoga isn't about being “good enough” or naturally flexible or mastering the awesome-looking poses; it is just about being committed to showing up every day and challenging your body to the best of YOUR ability.
4. Trust your intuition
In the past, I used to go against my gut feeling and instead do what I thought I should do or what I thought others wanted me to do. The more I did yoga, the more I started to see how to better harmonize what I felt in my gut with my thoughts and actions.
Usually, in the yogic sense, trusting my intuition would mean knowing that I would feel better if I got out of bed and did yoga rather than lay there, letting old memories seep into my new morning.
In a broader sense, trusting my intuition now means letting someone go if he or she makes me unhappy or being completely honest with someone in a difficult situation.
5. Disconnect to reconnect
We can often get lost on the screens, constantly checking our phones for updates with a subconscious desire to feel needed by and connected with others.
Having at least one hour a day when I turn my phone off and focus on the physical reminds me that life is what we feel, not emails or Facebook statuses suspended in an intangible cyber-space.
6. Live life's transitions gracefully so you're not knocked off your center-point
In learning a new balancing pose or in being thrown into a completely new environment, it is natural to want to hold back or not fully commit as to not risk falling or being rejected.
Doing balancing poses reminds me that I can't just shoot to the “full expression” of the pose on day one, but it will come gradually if I slowly and gracefully push myself each day.
It also reminds me that sometimes, the only way to learn how to hold a posture comes after countless times of falling from trying to commit fully.
Falling out of a posture is only a problem if you don't try to get back into it again. What I love most of all about balancing poses, however, is the hyper-focus one must have to succeed.
This intense focus permits no stray thought to enter the mind, which is a welcome time of stillness for a place where lingering memories and new ideas are usually frantically swirling.
7. If someone gives you negative vibes, it’s because s/he takes energy from you
This goes back to loving yourself in point two. If you know your self-worth, you won't let in negative vibes from someone else because you will be too consumed with putting out and receiving positive vibes that are appreciated and multiplied by others around you.
8. Enjoy the physical body to the fullest, diving into the ocean of consciousness
Little things, like focusing on deep breaths throughout class reminds me that I often take for granted the fact that I have a functioning body with functioning senses that allow me to do physical activities and experience physical sensations.
9. You find your strength in being vulnerable
When learning a new pose, it is natural to fall or feel uncomfortable. Some of the most vulnerable poses, such as hip and heart openers, like wheel or half pigeon, allow us to feel more open than ever before.
Similarly, being vulnerable with what you want — ie: not being afraid of someone's rejection or not being afraid of failing — allows you the maximum potential for success.
Also, in the sentiment of love, you should never regret being vulnerable and letting people know that you care about them. Even if they don't return the feeling, you'll never wonder “what if?” Feeling vulnerable in yoga and in life should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness.
10. We are all bound to each other by energetic threads
The energy we put out not only affects us, but also those around us. It is important to think about how our actions and vibes can alter those of others.
I often find that when I am around someone who has great energy, it rubs off on me. I also find that if I am thinking about someone I love, I will get a message from him or her or something will pop up that reminds me of him or her.
Who knows if it is just coincidence, but it never hurts to think good thoughts and send good energy.
You might have heard of the expression said at the end of yoga classes, “Namaste.” In Sanskrit, it roughly means, “I bow to the divine in you.”
The idea is that the goodness that is in me is also somewhere within you. Rather than seeing each other's flaws, we should strive to find the connecting thread of goodness and of humanity that ties all of us together.
As I moved from LA to England to start graduate school, everything from the weather to my friend group, to what I focus on has changed. One thing that keeps me grounded, aligned in what I believe to be my truest sense of self, is yoga. I do it in the morning, every day, before I check my phone and before I leave my room.
Not only has yoga brought me closer to my new friends (as I now hold classes for my course mates!), but it helps me figure out how the person I am inside can be best projected to the outside to connect with other people.
It also reminds me to slow down and experience every sensation, with all of my senses. Most importantly, it helps me strip away my ego (a constant work in progress), need for approval and fear of missing out (FOMO!).
It also helps me feel more connected to myself and those around me in a world where it is often too easy to feel alone in the bustle and stress of our daily lives.
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