On the Mat, Off the Mat

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4 Reasons why yoga makes me a better person

I was driving home from teaching the other night and I was reflecting about how busy and stressed my day was and how, in that moment on my way home, I felt SO much better. So here I am, inspired to write just exactly why I think yoga makes me a better person. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 reasons, there are many more, but I like the number 4, so here goes:

1. GIVES ME BALANCE

I’m not a workaholic, let me make that clear, there is a difference between working hard and being addicted to work. That said, I LOVE my day job (I’m a software designer and do a lot of work on museums and exhibitions), I really love what I do for a living. I don’t even consider some of the things I do as “work”. I mean, how can something so interesting, fun and enjoyable be considered “work”? AND…I get paid to do it! So when I’m armpits deep in deadlines, I tend to work hard/overwork. Honestly, when I need to, I can keep going, late into the night and bulldoze weekends.

Yoga is the way I find equilibrium, where I learn to balance time, tasks and myself. By finding time to be on my mat, I find time to disconnect and recharge. Also, teaching requires me to get out my chair and onto my mat. I need time to prepare and practice before each class I teach and this is where I can share these lessons of balance. It’s where I find the pause to re-energise myself and it provides me with perspective. There is something about the space and commitment in preparing a class that helps prevent me from over-working. I then get to go and share some insight or detail with you about yoga which might, in some small way teach you something new. Yoga really helps me find time to balance everything in order to be present first with myself, and then with others around me.

 

2. CREATES SPACE

During the day and over time, my mind gets full of noise. Facts, details, events, to-do lists, things I need to remember for work, for life, for myself, for others. It can be overwhelming. Everyday brings challenges, sometimes this means less time to relax, less time to rest. By dedicating time to my mat, I gain space and time. When I’m on my mat, it’s like time expands and stands still at the same time. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten onto my mat with the intention to do yoga for “a little while”. Hours later I finally get off. And when I do get off, I feel lighter, I feel more focused and happier. My body moves better, feels stronger and has of a sense of ease. I have more energy and I feel there is space all around me to do what I need to do.

 

3. ENERGISES ME

I always say energy is a great investment, in that the more you spend, the more you have. Asana (yoga poses) and Pranayama (the movement of energy or breathing) systematically affects various parts of our physical, physiological and emotional being. We see this in how quiet we become after forward bends and how energised we feel after backbends. Bringing mindfulness into each pose and not just treating the pose as a “stretch”  is where things really begin to shift for me. Engaging all parts of my body, mind and breath transforms each pose and each moment. Observing how my mind tries to control my body and seeing how my body to responds to subtle changes of tension, effort and breathing, really releases energy throughout the whole of me. Like the meme says: I bend so I don’t break. Yoga teaches me to be soft, to be flexible in body and mind, so when life throws me a curve ball, I can bend like bamboo and not shatter like glass. It recharges me to keep going, it’s like magic.

 

4. INSPIRES ME

Where do I begin on this one? Yoga is like the most ideal subject, lifestyle, activity for me. Why? Because it is an amalgamation of everything I’m passionate about: anatomy and the body, the mind-body connection, health, well-being, spirituality (and not in a mystical, esoteric way) and philosophy. I love that there is no goal, no “final destination”. There is never a time when you can say: This is it. I’ve mastered this pose, or I’ve reached Samadhi (enlightenment). If you have, you’re doing something wrong 🙂

Even my guru, B.K.S Iyengar, who after several decades of devoted practice to the art and science of yoga, would not profess enlightenment. He kept learning till the very end. Enlightenment is not a place, it’s a state of being and it fluctuates, like anything else in life….the most some of us could ever hope for, is a glimpse here and there of it.

The fact that this path, as a yogini, is never-ending – inspires me. It inspires me because it means there is still more to learn, more to do, more to be. I’m constantly learning new things about myself, seeing new ways to understand the world and finding new obstacles to overcome through yoga. I am so fortunate to have found a path that keeps me healthy, that surrounds me with like-minded individuals, where I still have so much to learn, where I can share what I discover  – this is what makes me happy. And that is what make me a better person.

Namaste 🙂