I came to yoga looking for an easy way out. I was a junior in college and needed a gym credit–and bowling was already full. So, yoga it was for me. Dressed in leggings and the requisite ’90s flannel shirt, I made my way to the wrestling room in my campus’ athletic center. It was a windowless, padded, smelly cell of a space. I took my seat on the floor and waited to be told what to do so that I could follow the instructions, earn my credit, and get back to my life . . .
Funny the way those unexpected little things grab ya. 2014 will mark 20 years that I’ve been practicing yoga. Aside from writing (and reading, walking, and breathing), I haven’t stuck with anything in my life for that long. What started out as a easy way to earn a gym credit has grown to become one of the most important ways–mentally, even more so than physically–that I choose to take care of myself.
The mental benefits took much longer to cultivate. Or maybe they just took longer for me to realize. Whatever the case, their lessons have been both subtle and profound. My yoga practice has taught me:
- To fall gracefully, and to enter into new things with grace, too.
- That perfection is an unattainable moving target I shouldn’t be aiming for in the first place.
- That feeling sensation–that experiencing experience–is the real beauty of it all.
- That my body is a living, breathing thing. Embody it! Embrace it. Respect it.
- To feel my heart beat, to quiet my mind with inhales and exhales, and to use these tools to return to my home base.
- To go at my own pace, and not to worry about comparing my trajectory to anyone else’s.
I know there are plenty of other ways for people to learn these lessons. But for me, there’s just something about using a physical activity in order to tap into something mental. So, *that’s* what that whole mind-body thing is all about . . .
For the last four years, I’ve consciously kicked off my new year with my radiant friend Chanel‘s soul-stirring class. We flow, we stretch, we restore, and we rock out a little bit to one of her awesome playlists. At the end of it all, we grab a sparkly slip of paper and an envelope. On that paper, we jot down for ourselves just one word that we’re going to carry with us into the new year. Last year, I chose “truth,”–a word that has proven itself to be so daunting, so eye-opening, and so (deep exhale) right.
This year, I am going with “yes”–a word that came to me when I spotted a metallic wine-colored tote bag at the Cole Haan outlet last week. I’ve spent a lifetime already saying “no” to things. Not just “thing” things. To people, to opportunities, to possibilities. To my body, my soul, my heart.
I bought the bag–and a matching cosmetics case. I almost talked myself out of going to the outlets in the first place. Crowds. Sales. Chaos. Stuff. But I said “yes”–and then I said “yes” again. And then, as I drove home, I thought about all of the things I can’t wait to say “yes” to in 2014.
And when I feel the “nos” start to creep back in, I’ve got all those tools listed above that will remind me how to get to “yes.” Incidentally, there’s a negotiations book called Getting To Yes–and every time I see it on a bookshelf, my brain translates it to “getting toys.”
I sort of think saying “yes” is like getting a toy. It’s fun. It’s new. It brings about a smile, yes?
Soundtrack: “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney