‘Lessons from the mat’
I started yoga the way many people in modern society start; to get ‘fit’. Now reflecting on this goal, I wasn’t wrong. I just meant something else by ‘fit’. That evolved and this is what I’ve learned on my yoga journey.
Monday to Friday, 9 to 5; it’s the way many people live their lives. We grow, we learn, we work, and then we retire. But while we’re all so goal-oriented, what do we get out of each day? And in what way do we share our journey with others? I remember trying yoga in my early twenties and thinking ‘oh yeah, this is good exercise’. I’d push myself to work hard each class and make sure I got my heart pumping. All in the name of getting ‘fit’.
When people use the word ‘fit’, they’re all too often talking about how they physically look and feel. But why do we limit this success metric to our physique? Why don’t people talk about being emotionally, mentally or spiritually fit? The further I get in life (and I’m only 30 now so I still have plenty more to learn!), the more this oversight baffles me. What good is being physically fit if we’re not happy? What good is it if we’re not healthy in our relationships with others? No one comes to the end of their life and wishes they had better arm definition. People could go through years of their life in the name of a goal, forgetting to be happy along the way. This could be a fitness goal, a career goal, buying a house. And what will you have achieved at the end of that if you weren’t enjoying the journey? What if your wants change? Will you be brave enough to change paths? If you’ve worked so hard for something and sacrificed everything else, I suspect maybe not. And then how can you possibly be happy?
I wanted to share this journey because it has been a lightbulb moment that maybe not everyone experiences. Or at least not until later in their lives right before the cliché mid-life crisis. Yoga has taught me about the importance of balance, and above all it has helped me adopt the mantra of enjoying moments. No one is happy all of the time. There will be moments of fear, doubt, conflict, but that’s OK. It’s all about enjoying moments. If you manage to enjoy more than half of the moments you have throughout the day, you’re already doing a pretty great job. Stop and smile at a flower; that’s happiness.
I know what you’re thinking… what does this have to do with yoga? I’ll bring it back to a well-rounded view of fitness. Introducing a yoga practice into your daily or weekly routine has a world of benefits. And when I say yoga practice, I don’t necessarily mean 60 minutes of power flow (although that’s great if you can manage it!). It could be a 5-minute morning breathing and meditation ritual before you start your day, and then some soft restorative flow before bed. It’s these little rituals that make the most difference. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I have learned about yoga. I used to think if I wasn’t doing a full hour it wasn’t worth the effort. That’s insane! If you’re busy, break it up throughout the day. Use your lunch break to do some standing stretches. Simply listen to your body as it will tell you what it needs, if only you’ll listen.
So, I challenge you to change your perception of fitness. Work on your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual fitness. Work on your relationship fitness. Work on your sleep fitness (yes, that’s a thing). And slowly but surely, you’ll see everything else in your life fall into place.
(Yoga NRG Teacher Training Graduate 2020)