Yoga has become a common practice across the world. For the purposes of those who are not as familiar with the practice, I’d like to take a minute to provide you with the definition:
a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. (Source: Google)
I wanted to highlight that yoga is much more than just a physical discipline or a cardio activity. Breath control and mind awareness are equally critical to our practice of yoga.
And this my friends is exactly why I hated doing yoga when I was younger. As a Type-A person, I was competitive, always go go go and didn’t find comfort in being alone with my mind.
Put it simply, yoga made me feel uncomfortable as did all things mindfulness.
I remember even crying when being asked to do a simple yogic meditation with my mum when I was in school. I’d rather go for tennis, go swimming or take a walk. I still have many friends who say they can’t meditate or can’t do yoga. It’s not their thing. Well, my friends, then it is exactly for you.
“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.” — Peter McWilliams
Discomfort stimulates growth. Yoga teaches us to constantly be aware of the present moment, move into poses that feel awkward and chant Sanskrit words, which we don’t have a clue about. It moves us into the unknown and that makes us change and adapt to a dimension of ourself that we didn’t see before.
Here are 4 ways Yoga has stretched me (quite literally!) in the past 7–8 years and shown me to nurture the opposite to every quality we possess as Type-A personalities.
Community over Competition
“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Unknown
You walk into a studio, lay your mat out and usually start with your eyes closed either seated or lying down. A melange of diverse people from the arts to business, mothers to single professionals, young athletes to retired grandfathers all doing yoga side by side with a few inches between them.
Once you start you’re focused on holding the position, watching your breathing and being in the moment so what anyone else is doing soon becomes irrelevant.
For once in your life, how you perform does not matter. The way I do a posture will never look the same as how you do a posture. Letting go of the competitive side of me to just move through a flow all together as a community is such a refreshing change to our everyday pressures to perform.
Stillness over the Hustle
For a while everyone I knew was into hot yoga. Sweating, cardio, loud beats, fast rhythm and dynamic energy bursting through the windows. That is great but yoga was never intended to be a practice paired to blaring music. I often find the Type-A folks love this sort of class, it’s the Barry’s Bootcamp of Yoga and it feels awesome. Feels like an accomplishment. However, the inner stillness and mental focus is really the main point of a yoga practice. Are you present with your breath in the room? Can you hold the posture?
“The pose begins when you want to leave it.” — Unknown
We live in this hustle culture, do this, do that, achievements, challenges, competitions, marathons — its alway’s a race to do more. But in reality, yoga is all about the moment, the now and just dropping into it. Not rushing through each posture, looking for what’s next, planning your day in your head. It’s why most often, unlike in every gym, the clock is hidden.
Yoga taught me to slow down, learn the art of patience and just be. How I am now is just perfect. This gives me the space and focus I need to have the clarity when life is moving really fast. And as ambitious people, that is usually the case.
Practice over Perfection
It’s called Yoga Practice. Not Yoga Perfect.
Nobody I have heard of in this world can do every single posture in yoga perfectly. Even the teachers, and teachers of teachers will always be working towards a destination in yoga. It’s always a journey. Some days a posture you could do in it’s full form, you do in an easier variation because your body is stiff somewhere. Or you are introduced to a new posture you have never heard of before. This happened to me yesterday when a teacher asked us to perform a chin stand. A what? How on earth would I be able to support my body weight on my chin with my legs flipped in the air?
But we started small. Took some blocks. Tried lifting one leg, then maybe another.
The beauty lies in the practice. The constant trying. The constant failing.
And in this case actually falling.
If everyone waited for a perfect yoga practice they’d likely be waiting their whole life completely dismissing the many days of hard work.
As Type-A people we are always focused on the results but yoga reminds us to embrace the journey. To find acceptance and forgiveness in ourselves for areas beyond our yoga mat.
“Be where you are, not where you think you should be.” — Unknown
Humility over Pride
When you win a marathon, you’re awarded a medal, put on a podium, celebrated in front of the masses. But there is no Yoga Olympics. There is no moment of show. When you find yourself able to do a really hard posture after months of work, you just close your eyes and focus. Nobody else is likely looking at you as each tries to channel their inner yogi. This can be a real equalizer.
It’s a nice balance to the inner lions that we naturally are, roaring through our fast paced professions, winning accolades and schmoozing amongst the who’s who of society.
No matter who you are or what you drive, you’ll end that class lying there on a mat on a cold floor surrendering to the universe. If that doesn’t humble you, then what will?
So on that note, I invite you to explore the yin to your yang.