Transformative lessons I have experienced through my Yoga practice
Release so you can deepen the pose. When I force my body, I create resistance. In the same way when we don’t listen to our hearts and intuition, we create energetic resistance to whatever it is we are engaged in. Releasing means letting go of what does not serve us, and allowing space to welcome what we deserve. You release, in order to deepen the experiences you have in life, whether it’s presencing the blooming of a rose, recognizing the miracle of every sunrise, or recognizing the soul of every person you come in contact with.
Releasing negative emotions and thoughts is also about letting go of what no longer serves us. The law of attraction states that whatever it is that we think about and focus on is what we attract. Our thoughts are like signals we send to the universe, and in turn the universe receives these signals as messages of what we would like to experience more of. So if we are constantly drowning ourselves in negative thoughts, we are only going to continue to attract negative circumstances. When I release, I can accept the beauty and joy of life.
Let the breath guide you. You wake up in the morning, dart from your bed to the shower, pour coffee in your to-go mug, all while simultaneously running through the perennial to-do list. You take a look at your watch and you have to leave in 5 minutes, so you quickly grab something you can eat in your car, remembering to also grab your phone, house keys, purse, oh yes and your coffee mug. Breathing is an automatic function, so you probably don’t even recognize that you are breathing, let alone that your breath is shallow.
My yoga teacher always tells us to not compromise our breath for the pose. How I breathe says a lot about how I experience a posture, and life. The fluid flow of breath is what teaches me to also go with the gentle flow of life. When you have awareness of your breathing, you also have awareness of your life, your thoughts, and your emotions. When I breathe deeply, I bring consciousness to my being and ensure that every part of my body is getting the oxygen it needs, including my cells. With ever breath, I feel energized, present, and alive. Breath is the essence of life. In yoga breath is linked to Prana – the life force that flows through all living creatures; it is the force that connects us to our source of being and to every other being in the universe. Breath anchors me in truth, allowing me to become more conscious of my actions and slowing me down enough to recognize the beauty in life. And when I sit still, I can feel God in the brief pauses that occur between inhale and exhale.
Lead with your heart. What if they say no? What if I mess up? What if I don’t remember what to say? I hope I can do the presentation? This is way beyond what I can do. They are so much better at this than me. What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t agree with my ideas? I wish I was as pretty as . . . I wish I was as smart as . . . I’m not qualified for this. I don’t have what it takes. This is all the madness of the MIND when it is left unchecked by the HEART. In the mind lives the EGO, the part of us that is constantly in fear of not “being good enough.” The dictionary defines ego as self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence. Unfortunately the ego bases its worth on accomplishments, status, and accumulation of wealth, so when we don’t have these things, the ego tells us we aren’t worthy. It creates unsubstantiated fear to protect itself from feeling worthless and undeserving. Our minds are in a constant state of worry, anxiety, fear, and depression – in a constant state of suffering.
Our Heart is where it’s at! In yoga, when I am doing a seated forward bend, my natural instinct is to lead with my head, creating a curved back. The goal is to keep a flat-back, and in order to do that, I must use my heart to guide me forward. The society we live in has put so much emphasis on the development of our minds, we have forgotten the voice of our hearts. Our hearts know that we are worthy simply because we are a manifestation of the beauty of life. Just like a flower does not have to prove its beauty or its place in this world, neither do we. Our hearts teach us to love ourselves, to have compassion for ourselves, and most of all to be gentle and kind with ourselves. It is forgiving and all accepting. It is all that the ego isn’t.
The times in my life when I have faced difficult decisions, my mind has usually been able to rationalize and find logic in every decision I was potentially faced with. So, I learned to trust my heart to guide me. Sometimes the answers that my heart gives me seem illogical or irrational, to the ego that is, but I know that while my mind holds the content of my life, my heart is the essence of who I am. It’s taken time to trust the heart; at first it feel like a war with the ego, a very painful war. But as I have embraced my heart, I have also come to embrace peace, joy, creativity, inspiration, courage, vulnerability, and all the things that make life such an incredible journey. I have also learned that the mind is a beautiful and brilliant part of me, but only when it is guided by my heart.
Let go of your dependence on the eyes… Trust the vision of the heart, where the spirit dwells… Dreams are told in the language of the soul… – Frank De Jesus Acosta.
Modify. My teacher always tells me that in order to get the full benefits a pose has to offer, I have to modify it if the posture is not aligning with my body’s abilities. If something does not feel right, change it. There is nothing that says things must be done a specific way. If it doesn’t work for you, modify it or release it! The point of life is to enjoy it and bask in all the beauty it has to offer.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided we no longer wanted to be home-owners. At first it was quite scary because it went against our belief system of what it meant to be successful, to have security, and to be a family provider. Our home had become a house from which many of our financial and emotional problems stemmed. We had become trapped by our own belief system. When we modified our belief system, we understood that renting would bring us the peace and harmony we were looking for in a home.
Modifications are just a way to adapt and transform experiences that enhance our lives and create harmony in our interactions with all that exists around us. My compass has always been to let go of that which makes me feel trapped, and welcome that which brings me an extraordinary sense of liberation and lightness. I remind myself, often, that I always have a choice, even in the most disparaging circumstances.
Release (or modify) every circumstance, every condition, and every situation that no longer serves a divine purpose in your life. -Iyanla Vanzant
Accept where you are. Believe it or not you are where you are suppose to be. All the experiences I have lived have brought me to this moment in time. In every relationship I’ve had, in every circumstance I have been in, in every condition I have created in my life, there has been a lesson I’ve needed to learn.
This is not fair. This should not have happened to me. I don’t deserve this. Why me? Why is life so cruel? Acceptance is what’s created when we stop resisting, and surrender to life. I used to confuse acceptance and surrender with giving up. But that’s not what that means at all. Acceptance means we stop fighting our reality and we start working with it. We have a tendency to resist whatever is causes suffering in our lives – we don’t want to have it, so we fight against it. The more we fight, the more the problem, circumstance, condition, or situation that is causing the suffering magnifies, therefore intensifying the suffering; very similar to when a muscle tenses up before a vaccination. No one deserves the awful experiences that occur in our lives. And of course we are human, and when something traumatic and painful does happen our natural tendency is to resist it.
Observe and be aware of your state. Whatever you are feeling is connected to a more profound aspect of your transformation and growth. When I accept the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual place I’m in, I am better able to move through the process, because I can start from an authentic place of knowing. Then instead of focusing on the suffering, I focus on how I can best approach the situation, opening space for more light and peace in my life. And usually when my heart is open, I am able to find solutions or perceive experiences in ways I did not think were possible. When I accept, I can release what no longer serves me.
Soften so you can be more comfortable in the pose. This is what my yoga teacher always says. A few days ago, I got excited because I was doing a forward bend and I could almost touch my head to my legs. Of course my ego got in the way, and I pushed harder than I should have, creating tension and resistance in my hamstring. Needless to say, I hurt myself and now I am walking around sore and unable to engage my hamstrings for a few days because I have blocked energy in that area. In Yoga, the discipline is to soften the muscle, so it doesn’t create resistance, allowing the body to naturally melt into a deeper extension of the pose.
I once heard a friend describe her heart as being surrounded by a concrete shield, created to protect it (her) from all the pain and trauma she had endured. This is a natural reaction, to protect ourselves, to become hard and resist. Like my hamstring, the heart is a muscle that needs to be softened in order for us to melt into more profound extensions of ourselves. It doesn’t mean I am not going to experience the pain; what it does mean is that rather than living in a place of suffering because I am resisting the pain, I am able to move through and past the pain. There is an analogy that so beautifully describes this process – “The Tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, and struggle to reach light.”
Vulnerability is not easy, and so often we confuse it with weakness. However, vulnerability is much the opposite of weakness – it is the strength and courage to face the pain, and grow from it. When I create shields, resistance, to the pain, I actually end up wallowing in it. I can’t move beyond the pain without going through the pain. A concrete shield would wilt a rose. It is only when the softness of the rose is touched by light that it unfolds into the beautiful being it is meant to become.
It’s a process. There is no end, because we are constantly transforming and changing into a higher version of ourselves. When I focus on the end, I tend to rush through things and miss the lessons I am supposed to learn along the way. Every experience leads us to discover something new about ourselves. The process of self-discovery is never-ending because we are always evolving and always transforming, like the trees,the mountains, the flowers, the animals, and the soul of the universe.
For as long as I’ve been doing Yoga, there is always a new pose, or a deeper extension of a pose, but Yoga isn’t just about how flexible I am or how long I can hold a pose; it is about all the lessons and discoveries I’ve made about myself. It is about transforming physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Being present in the process of life means embracing both the pain and the happiness. It means being alive and embracing every emotion, thought, and experience that makes us human.
Don’t let a day pass you by, without feeling your aliveness!
2 thoughts on “Why Would Anyone Do Yoga?”
Wow, Cristina. I needed this tonight. Thank you for watching my children, for being in my life, for your heart. I will try to follow mine.
The honor is absolutely mine Nancy! I am privileged that something I wrote touched your heart. I always keep the piece that you wrote about the waves, Thanksgiving, in my meditation room. It’s been a powerful piece for me to continue to connect to. Love.