When I started practicing yoga during my sophomore year of college, it was purely a way to pass the time during a particularly rough time in my life, as well as a means to get some exercise into my routine. I never knew when I went into it that yoga would have the power to teach me life lessons I never knew I needed. And I certainly never knew it would lead me to become a certified yoga instructor just a couple years down the road.
Yoga is so much more than a form of exercise. The more I get on my mat, the more I learn about life and how to handle its many curve balls. The practice has truly helped shape the person I am today
Here are 13 simple, but deeply significant life lessons yoga has taught me that I hope will resonate with you as well.
1. Fear Is A Waste Of Time
When I started practicing yoga, I was scared of everything -- from falling in a tree pose and embarrassing myself in front of my peers, to getting upside down and attempting a headstand, and everything in between. This fear translated to all areas of my life.
I had trepidation about relationships, work, and even when it came to just unapologetically being myself.
But once I let go of my anxiety about the uncertainty of the unknown, it genuinely felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Now, when I feel fear creeping up I use this quote by Hafiz to ground me:
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I'd like to see you in better living conditions.
2. Life Is Asymmetrical
When I'm teaching my students a pose that requires a mirrored movement on both sides of the body, I tell them to pay attention to the subtle differences they may notice on either side.
Your body is, and will never be, completely symmetrical -- and neither will your life.
Appreciate the beauty in imperfection and the playful challenge that imbalance brings.
3. Vulnerability Is Beautiful
Heart-opening poses in yoga, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose), basically force you to be vulnerable and beautifully open.
These movements have taught me it's OK to wear your heart on your sleeve, and to be in touch with your emotions.
4. Ignore Your Ego
Many of my teachers have told me an ego is one of the most dangerous things a human can possess.
In Yoga Life Magazine, Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani explains that "misuse of the ego is when ignorance [of one's higher, unified nature] causes the ego to try to bring everyone and everything around it under its control."
For me, my ego is the annoying voice in my head telling me to keep going and do 10 more handstands, even though my body is screaming for a rest.
Being aware of my ego in yoga has translated into so many other aspects of my life, particularly when I'm trying to control and micromanage situations that simply aren't mine to control.
5. Be Present
Yoga class is literally an hour of you sitting in a quiet room, surrounded by nothing other than your breath and the energy of the other incredible yogis around you.
No technology, no distractions.
I've taken this into my life by reminding myself to put down my cell phone whenever I can, and really be in the present moment -- because the present is really all we have.
When all else fails, breathe through the moment.
Even, slow breathing helps you through the hardest poses in a physical yoga practice, just as those deep inhales and long exhales can help you navigate life whenever it feels noisy, crowded, or difficult to conquer.
7. Self-Love Is Essential
Dedicating an hour just for yourself when you go to yoga class isn't selfish in any way -- it's essential.
Self-love is the key to bliss, happiness, and loving others.
Self-love is an ongoing, and often challenging journey, but once you realize material things will not lead to happiness, you can find the strength to look within yourself and find your own peace.
8. Patience Is Key
I used to try to push or force myself into poses I wasn't ready for, which often led to injuries, frustration, and of course, pain.
Yoga slowly taught me to be patient when it comes to tackling challenges, and I tend to use this lesson when I find myself seeking instant gratification in life (like my frustration with finding an apartment -- who feels me on that one?)
Inhale and exhale -- it really is true that good things come to those who wait.
9. Don't Create Unnecessary Stress
When a pose feels difficult to get into, my shoulders and lower back automatically tense up.
But my teachers have taught me I have the ability to control this tension. When I focus on letting go and releasing the stress I've caused myself, the pose feels fluid and natural.
You have that same ability to take control of stressful situations in your life; you just have to release the tension and breathe through the noise of it all.
10. It's OK To Fail, And You Should Probably Do It More
Without failure, how would you ever be able to know what you're truly capable of?
For instance, I take pride in my yoga-related bruises, because they show that I said "f*ck it" to fear and really tried.
Try new things in life, and allow yourself to fail -- then get back up and try again.
11. Consistency Is Key
A consistent practice is what made my yoga stronger than ever. But that doesn't mean you need to get down on your mat for an hour and a half each and every day.
Start small, and add a little more each day, or each week. Even just setting aside five minutes for stretching adds up in the big picture.
Soon, that steady flow you developed on the mat will spill over into the way you structure your life and the energy you carry with you day-to-day.
12. Listen To Your Body and Intuition
I used to push, push, push myself until I had virtually nothing left to give. If my body asked for a rest, I would ignore it and listen only to my competitive mindset.
Yoga taught me to tune into my body's gentle requests and really listen to these cues.
Similarly, if you just have one of those feelings something isn't quite right in your life, it's probably your intuition giving you a little nudge.
Lean into that gut feeling. Only you know what's right for you.
13. You Are Stronger Than You Give Yourself Credit For
Every time I doubt myself on the mat, it's usually led by insecurity and simply second-guessing what I'm actually capable of.
You are so strong -- both in your yoga practice and in life.