Yoga is a practice that externally appears to be primarily physical. Once the student commits, they often find there is a far greater reward in emotional and mental transformation, along with an increased sense of relaxation, reduction in chronic pain, and other physical benefits to the body. While yoga can do so much good for the body, it truly can also transform the person. I have often heard teachers say, "It's not about the pose - it's about what the pose shows you about yourself."
I completed my 300-hour yoga teacher training last year where I spent 6 months assisting and practicing under my mentor at Yogaworks, Beth Prandini. Over these 6 months, I learned more about the technicalities of teaching yoga such as sequencing, adjusting, speaking with clear instruction, but I also learned more about my path in life than I have ever before. For the first time I felt what it means to have someone who is in your corner 100%, and unconditionally supports you. I went back and forth on my final project idea, probably about 10 times, and was dealing with injuries and the pressure of school during the training. There were times I was under a cloud of self-doubt and insecurity, and felt like I was losing my way. The number one lesson yoga has taught me is that there is no such thing as losing your way. You always re-connect and remind yourself of what it is that you've forgotten, not what you've lost.
1. Stay open to the possibilities ahead
When you go to your first yoga class, you will likely not be able to master every single pose - and that's perfect! You may feel the drive to compare yourself to other people in class, but know that you are in your process, just as they are. In life, we all have a path ahead of us full of opportunities and possibilities. There is so much magic and light ahead of you.
2. Allow all parts of yourself to show up
No matter how messy or ugly you think those hidden parts of you are - they are a part of you, and they are inherently worthy of being integrated into your true Self. We think we need to hide our anger, our sadness, our neediness, but these things make us human. And it's important to remind ourselves that these emotions and feelings are valid and just as important to truly feel into, as is peace, happiness, and love.
3. Release judgment of yourself
Releasing judgment has always been so difficult for me. One of my biggest struggles in life is that I'm so hard on myself - and often feel that doing so is simply me holding myself accountable. But you can release judgment while still challenging yourself and doing hard things. Self-judging is the ego talking. Take a beginner's mind to everything you do and be present in every moment. You won't even have time to judge.
4. Allow yourself to surrender
In a religious sense, this could be surrender to God, Higher Power, Universe, etc. In a more secular way, this could be asking for help, relying on your friends and family to support you, and accepting that there are things in life you cannot control 100% of the time.
5. Open your heart, but have your own back
A lot of yogis think of backbends as the ultimate heart-opening postures, to promote compassion for self and others. But we sometimes forget how important it is to strengthen the back of the heart. Find the balance between opening your heart while protecting it - hold your strong boundaries, but don't let them stop you from sharing love.
6. Find safety in your body and environment
Yoga teachers often incorporate the chakra system into the practice. The root chakra is the base chakra that is associated with feelings of safety, being grounded, and finding strength. Practicing strength-building standing poses that build and challenge your balance truly help you stand on your own two feet.
7. Self-care is a lifestyle
Slowing down, releasing control, and finding stillness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. We live in such a fast-paced world, and authentic self-care is essential to all aspects of our health.
8. Strive for self-awareness and self-knowledge
Even when you're injured and can't "practice" yoga - you can still practice self-inquiry. Dive deeper into your self-inquiry (Sanskrit: svadhyaya) practices even as your physical practice changes. Yoga is ultimately about your relationship to and with yourself - the most important relationship you'll ever have.
9. Find your community
As a self-proclaimed "lone wolf" I have benefitted incredibly from the community and family teaching yoga has given me. When you enter into a mentorship training, everyone holds each other up. Release your shame in needing other people. Find your community where you are seen, heard, and received.
10. You are on your own path
We all have our own path, and no one's will look alike. We are all finding our personal calling. In the yoga world, there is so much judgment about whether or not "modernized" yoga is "true" yoga, as if you can only be doing yoga if you renounce all worldly pleasures and devote your life to meditation. And if you do, there is nothing wrong with that, too! As Beth once reminded me, "There are many ways up the mountain." We're all getting to the same place - even when we're all on our own journey.