We often consider our time on the yoga mat to be the one time of day to be with ourselves. By exploring how our bodies move, how we feel sensations, how thoughts rise and fall, how we struggle a bit to tap greater degrees of strength and openness; we find ourselves engaged in the present moment. There may be no better practice that engages the body, mind and soul all at once.
But we often let ourselves get in the way. What does that mean exactly?
The tried and true way to failure is the comparison of yourself to the achievements of others. From time to time, we may catch ourselves looking around the room to see how others are doing, and then immediately judge ourselves, maybe even to the point of self-belittlement.
It’s OK, everyone has their pace, you convince yourself, but sometimes that wearisome voice in your head may tell you that it’s all going too slowly. The spiral into the abyss of self-judgment continues.
Isn’t it strange that with any endeavor we take on with the goal of self-improvement, we can often sabotage ourselves through constantly focusing on others? This is even made worse if you’re the type who places high expectations on yourself. Some wear the label “perfectionist” as a badge of honor when they really are crying inside.
The irony here is that the more you compare yourself to others, they further you fall away from yourself, which is opposite to the actual purpose of yoga.
A long time ago, through deep thought and meditation, Indian philosophers discovered there was something beyond the ego. It was the self: the essence of who we are, not bound by time or space.
It’s through this awareness of self that we can find happiness. Yoga combines the physical, the mental and the spiritual to remember who we are and that we are all that’s needed. Through exercise, we not only strengthen our bodies, we nurture our evolved consciousness.
Easier said than done, but if you do yoga, your path of self-rediscovery would just get clearer. Notice that we are re-discovering (not discovering) because we can’t discover something that we know exists in the first place.
The very nature of yoga exercises tones the self. Even though you may be in a class of many, the intimate stillness that’s required for the poses allows time of self-reflection. When you’re in reverse-warrior, it’s almost impossible to not be focused on your own breathing and the stretch along from the sole of your foot to the very tips of your fingers. This sense of presence and awareness allows us to be who we really are.
Although we’ve mentioned how comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful, when used the right way, it can actually push our boundaries and help us excel. Everything in existence is relative and contextual, so using the success of others as points of reference or inspiration can help us achieve where we want to go even faster.
Transformation through yoga starts to happen once class ends and you roll up your mat. Remember that yoga builds flexibility not only in the body but also in the mind. After stretching to your physical limits, many yogis and yoginis begin to stretch their views, to look at the world in a different way: a clearer, more inviting one.
In this time of inner searching, we can find ourselves asking:
Finding something new within ourselves (or rediscovering our real purpose) brings fresh perspectives or simply endows us with more gratitude to continue on our path. We can find more gratitude for our bodies, including all our perfect imperfections, the quirks, and unique experiences.
The famous, international yoga instructor, Dylan Werner, says it the best:
“Yogic philosophy teaches that fire can burn many things, but can’t burn itself. Our problem is not finding ourselves because it’s impossible to be lost. We think we need to do, to search, to look, to find, but this just reinforces the illusion that you’re not yourself. You can’t find you, but you can be you.” – Dylan Werner, dylanwerneryoga, Instagram.
Through yoga, we can discover the truth that we’ve always known: we are whole and complete exactly how we are, always were and always will be. Yoga and life are one and the same.
This post was part of our Monthly Intentions program throughout the year. Each month at Evolutions we focus on one intention to guide our practice, our wellness and our attention – inside and outside the club. Join us on this journey through Facebook and Instagram @EvolutionsAnnapolis #monthlyintentions #evolutionsannapolis.