As I have mentioned before, I choose a theme for my yoga classes every month. I always pick something that resonates with me and that I might be working on personally or have struggled with in the past. The class in particular that I teach has the same flow every time. I could easily go to class, teach the flow, and let them pick their own intention. But I believe that yoga is so much more than that. It’s about you and all of you. Your mental, physical, and whole self. There’s a quote I have seen before that says, “It’s funny when people think “yoga people” are supposed to be calm. No. We all go to yoga because we’re nuts.”
Although this is written with humor, I find it very accurate. Do you think we all woke up one day pressing into handstands and ending with the splits? Hell no. It takes patience, hard work, self-love, vulnerability, and balance. It takes many of the characteristics that are needed in real life and our practice teaches us these each time we come to our mat. Balance is one area that I feel is often forgotten or overlooked. Physically, balance helps with strength and flexibility (think eagle or dancers). Mentally, balance is needed to survive. We can’t be on the go constantly if we don’t have rest. We also can’t stay in bed all day. We can’t spend all of our time with only one person. We also can’t isolate ourselves. Maybe “can’t” isn’t the right word. We can do anything we like. Rather, I would say it isn’t healthy to be so radical in our daily lives. Boundaries are essential and what helps us lead a healthy life. We can’t give from an empty vessel. This is something that took me a long a time to learn and I still struggle with regularly.
Yoga has helped me overcome many obstacles and break through some serious mental barriers. It might sound cliche, but it’s so true. This practice is equal parts flexibility and strength. It takes balance, perseverance, and pushing your ego to the backseat. I read somewhere once that it is important to practice meditation when you’re in a calm headspace. Although it’s beneficial for when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, it is hard to know the feeling if you haven’t entered that space. The same goes for yoga.
I used to go to yoga when I was stressed only to find my balance and strength shot and me becoming more frustrated. Slowly, I realized the days I needed the mat the most weren’t the days I needed the elaborate asanas, but rather some extra love and openness. It’s important to remember that our body correlates with our mind. That’s why we often get sick when we’re overworked. Or knots in our neck and back when we’re stressed. Even nauseous when we’re anxious. Our bodies know more than we realize and will show us things that we sometimes might not want to see ourselves. That’s why it is important to accept each moment and be intentional about what you do with it. I read another quote the other day (I’m kind of obsessed with them if you haven’t noticed) that resonated with me and was something so simple that we often overlook and take for granted.
“Do you ever realize how much your body loves you? It’s always trying to keep you alive. It’s making sure you breathe while you sleep, stopping cuts from bleeding, fixing broken bones, finding ways to beat the illnesses that you might get. Your body literally loves you so much. It’s time you start loving it back.”
The moment you take a step back and find that gratitude is the moment you begin to become more intentional about what you do with your body. You become aware of what you put in it, how you work with it, and maybe even one day love it back. It takes time, patience, strength, hard work, self-love, and vulnerability (hmm… that sounds familiar). For me, I can to find these things through yoga. Now, this might not be the same for everyone. For some, their body may crave running, hiking, or sports. Each body is uniquely made and that is what makes it so beautiful.
So with all of that being said, I have made a vow to use my teaching and practice as a time to give back to my body and mind. Time to grow and learn and love. I have used intentions anywhere from contentment to forgiveness. I tend to pick a broad topic and hone in on specific areas each week. It helps keeps things different, fun, and (hopefully) relatable.
Last month I focused on stillness. Slowing down the mind and listening to yourself. Connecting your mind and body. Surrendering. The practice was a bit slower, allowing time to find those spaces and really feel and listen.
This month, the focus is on movement. Awareness, intention, and gratitude with the movement of both your mind and body. A bit faster, but being very conscious about each one. Same flow, completely different outlook and experience. Kind of like yanny and laurel, right (which I 100% hear laurel)? 🙂
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my many pictures of my little green journal where I write down these monthly intentions and quotes. In my book, I expand on the mantras and share them with my students during class.
While many of these writings are things I found on the internet, I always make a point to write something from my heart. Something that aligns with my theme and that will connect me through practice. This month, I wrote the following:
“Movement is easy. The mind can wander. The body can walk, stretch, and move. The hard part is the awareness. Noticing the movement and deciding where it goes. Choosing to love your body and manifesting positive energy. Anything can happen at any moment. But you choose how you react. Will you use each moment for growth or go through the motions mindlessly? A few times a day, take a step back and inhale. Notice the sounds around you and how each muscle feels in this moment. As you exhale, let go of all the worries and relax your body. Remember that sometimes our world shatters so that we can pick up the pieces and learn about the strength you didn’t know you had. Remember you are here and alive and that is beautiful in itself. And as you move forward, be aware. Be intentional. Be grateful. And most importantly, be gentle.”
I encourage you all to find something to give back to your body and mind; a way to express yourself through gratitude. If you attend my class, you might have known about these themes, but not the depth behind them. I like to think I give a little piece of myself to my students each class. It is honestly one of the most amazing feelings in the world when someone comes up to me after class telling me that my words or intention helped them through something. Or my favorite – “it was exactly what they needed.”
I am so grateful that I have found a hobby that is healthy, helpful, and therapeutic. For many years, I was convinced I would never have a passion. That I wouldn’t have something to look forward to or set my soul on fire. But I have, and it’s something I plan on never letting go of in this lifetime. I won’t lie, there was a brief moment at the beginning of my practice that I let outside opinions get in the way and almost prevent me from continuing to practice. Thankfully, God put a beautiful person in my life, named Maggie, who pushed me and told me to never make yourself smaller for someone else.
If you have found something that ignites that spark, hold on to it. You were offered that gift for a reason and by using it, you are helping not only yourself but likely many around you; whether it be directly or from a distance. This spark doesn’t have to be something you’re good at doing. If all of us only did the things we were naturally good at, it would take away from the experience, strength, and gratitude. It literally took me 3 months to get crow pose down and over a year to successfully do the splits. Anything that fills your cup is worth the time and effort. It’s worth all the falling and failing. If you have yet to find your spark, please keep trying. I promise you there is something that you were put on this earth to do. And once you discover it, you will wonder how you ever went without it.
If you read this far, I would love to hear: what is your spark? How did you find it and how long did it take for you to learn it was your passion?