It's hard not to see things differently when you're upside down. Kinda the whole point of "shift in perspective". Add in a hot,humid room and strangers merely inches away from you, and you have a whole lotta different perspective.
I always forget why I love yoga so much until I go and do it. With a 5 month old, a seemingly never ending nursing/pumping schedule, countless work to dos and home errands, it's been way to easy to say I don't have those hours to devote to myself.
But it took this morning, after a brutal night of only 40 min snatches of sleep at a time, to say I need this for myself. To literally feel that if I didn't do this, I would be at risk of breaking me.
And so I found myself in a amateur downward dog, trying valiantly to clear my mind, but failing until I became too fatigued to do anything but focus on my inadequate poses.
But as I slowly let my mind float, I realized how inspiring this practice is for anyone that is doing something completely outside of their comfort zone, whether it's learning a new skill, founding a company or taking on a big new project.
Here are 5 reasons that practicing yoga has important lessons and parallels to consider:
1) The more you focus on what your neighbor is doing, the worse off you'll be.
I can't tell you, as someone who has grown up playing competitive sports and is used to always competing at school and work, how uncomfortable it is to realize that there is no competition in yoga. I can't help but gaze at that woman who is doing handstands effortlessly or that other one that is floating through the air, with abs of steel, doing poses that I never realized common humans could do. I can't help but realize that my standing splits are more a pitiful leg lift and that even that hurts like hell. But as soon as I get into throwing myself a pity party and focusing more on the accomplishments of my neighbor, the more off balance I immediately feel. It just makes everything worse. And so, like at work, I need to focus on my own damn self and what I need to do to be better.
2) Ground yourself in your own intent.
Most yoga instructors ask you to "set an intent" for that day's practice. At first I thought that this was kinda hippy granola, but the more I got into it, the more I realized the power of intent at the micro level. Even having the intent of "calming scattered thoughts" helps me to emerge from the hour a more grounded person. Similarly, I find that if I sit at my desk for an hour, having set a small intent, not only will I be more productive, but I will be less likely to stray from that focus.
3) Try and fail and try again.
There's a reason it's called yoga practice. When I saw one of my neighbors just having so much fun with her practice, playing, trying different things, succeeding sometimes, failing at others, mostly because she was focused simply on herself, I saw the power of having your own little goals and keeping at them, but also in enjoying the process. There is going to be a ton of failure before there is even a modicum of success but man did it look fun to enjoy the ride. Failure doesn't have to be a burden. It can be freeing.
4) Accept that what worked yesterday may not work today.
Every time I practice yoga, I 'm amazed at what my body does and doesn't do. And what was so simple last time seems impossible this time. The key is to quickly accept that, not push beyond and move on to what is working. Focus on your strengths in other words, and forgive your weaknesses. They are temporary, and shifting your focus to trying to change that will prevent you from enjoying today's successes.
5) Be kind to yourself – there is no room for judgement.
Ultimately yoga is about personal growth. Whether your mind or body, yoga helps you to focus on the important things and let go of the superficial noise. It gives you permission to be kind to yourself. To not judge, or allow yourself to be judged. It's such a freeing state to get to. No matter if it's about work or parenthood or friends, I'm learning how to not to be so hard on myself. And with this positive energy I can let go of the heavy anchors holding me down and back, and propel myself forward.
I realize this sounds more than a little new age frou-frou, also in a time when I think that the word and concept of "mindfulness" are approaching epically cliched levels.
But for me, the proof is in the practice. How more grounded, intentional and productive I am after I invest that time in myself. For others it may be going for a run or baking a batch of cookies. Whatever it is, though, it's important.
Because it makes me an active participant in my day, one that is not only intentional in what I want to do, but one that is kind to myself, no matter the outcome.
And that's really the point.