A Zen Perspective: 15 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Yoga Mat

I have always been fascinated with yoga. I love the poses, I love the culture, I love the variety. Yoga is more than just a fitness practice. It is a routine check up that allows us to touch base with ourselves on a regular basis and take stock of how we feel on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

All exercise is good; it releases endorphins, builds strength and agility, and helps to reduce stress. I say, if you find something you enjoy that gets you moving, do it!

That’s what yoga is for me. As far as burning calories go, it isn’t the most efficient method, but it gives me even more benefits than weight loss. This month, I’ve made a concentrated effort to add a minimum of fifteen minutes of yoga practice to my daily schedule. Some days I didn’t follow through, but on the days I showed up to my mat, I learned some valuable lessons that can’t be measured with a bathroom scale. I want to share those lessons with anyone that is working towards making yoga a part of their lives.

  1. Be patient with yourself.  Perfection is not the goal of yoga. It’s called yoga practice for a reason. It’s okay if you don’t move through poses gracefully or hold each pose perfectly — or at all in some cases. Each day you get a little better, so just focus on what you’re doing now. The rest will come with time.
  2. Celebrate Every Accomplishment. Even if it’s just being able to reach a little further than yesterday, or sinking a little deeper into a stretch, it all means growth and progress. Celebrate it, no matter how small it may seem.
  3. Be Dedicated. I used to sit around scrolling through the Health and Fitness category on Pinterest, looking at all the information on yoga and imagining what it would be like to practice yoga every day. I had done a class here or there, I even had a yoga video that I enjoyed a great deal, but I never did it. Because I’m silly. This month I set a goal that I would do at least 15 minutes of yoga a day, and while I may have missed a few days here and there, I saw immense improvement by dedicating time to yoga on a regular basis.
  4. Set Aside Your FearDon’t let an intimidating pose discourage you from your practice. Do the best you can, and have courage. If you can’t do something yet, just tell yourself it’s alright, I’ll try again tomorrow.
  5. Just Breathe. Focus on your breath, on the way it moves through your lungs and the rest of your body. Becoming mindful of the way you breath can help off the mat, too. Like when you’re falling asleep at night, when you’re exercising, when you need to get negative emotions under control. By bringing your attention back to your breathing, you can find renewed strength and peace.
  6. Be Present. For that period of time that you have set aside for your yoga practice, shut out everything else demanding your attention. It will all be there when you finish, and you’ll find yourself better equipped to meet it. Instead, focus on your hands against the mat and the way each stretch feels today.
  7. Love Yourself. Yoga has taught me a greater appreciation for myself, and my body. When I do other work outs, I feel strong and confident, but when I do yoga, I feel beautiful and grounded. I am unshakeable after a good yoga practice.
  8. You are Stronger Than You Think. You will amaze yourself by what you are able to accomplish, especially the more you practice.
  9. Balance Comes From Within. You can’t find balance from an outside source. You’ll find it in the base of your feet, at the back of your mind, and the centre of your heart.
  10. Perfection is a Process of Tiny Adjustments. My cousin is a yoga instructor. At the last family reunion I started up a conversation with her, telling her how impressed I was that she had accomplished so much with her practice. I off-handedly added, “I love yoga, but I’m not very good at it.” She rolled her eyes and said “That’s not the point of yoga.” I knew she was right; I had heard that very thing many times before, but somehow she got through to me and I decided to start where I am now instead of waiting for the impossible perfection. I’ll never get better if I never start. We are human, we are not meant to achieve perfection. However, we can pursue it, daily, and each little change will bring us closer and closer to our goals.
  11. Always Reach a Little Further Than You Did Yesterday. Always strive to reach past your comfort zone. That is the only way you’re going to grow.
  12. This is For You, Alone. Yoga is many things, but it is certainly not a competition. It’s about renewal, and about checking in with yourself on a regular basis to make sure everything is working in harmony. It’s a reset button. A charging station. Do it for yourself, and don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s.
  13. Accept Your Body The Way It Is. Be grateful for what your body can, and has done for you, instead of the things you want to change.
  14. Fifteen Minutes Will Change Your Day. When I start my day with a short yoga sequence, I find that I can handle whatever the day throws at me, and I’m more energetic and productive on top of that.
  15. You Are Capable. You can accomplish and overcome anything that comes your way. Just remember to breath.

I hope these lessons I’ve learned from my yoga practice will inspire you to seek out your own. I can promise you that life will take on a new perspective when viewed from Downward Facing Dog.

Namaste.

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