Life Lessons I Learned from Yoga, or How Yoga Keeps Me Sane

yoga blog post image

Here’s a pretty nature scene photo I took in Taiwan, because it’s kind of weird to take photos in yoga class.

I’ve been doing yoga consistently for about 10 years now. If it were a person, I would marry it.

In the past year or so, I took a hiatus from blogging here, not on purpose but just due to the sheer amount of the priorities I made willingly. I switched jobs twice. Some new faces entered into my life while some left. I continued some hobbies and dropped others. I know everyone goes through changes like these, and for me, yoga has been a trusty companion that helps restore my physical and inner balance through my ups and downs.

Yoga releases the stress caused by my demanding work projects or upsetting situations. It reassured me during my multiple waves of quarterlife crisis by calming my crippling anxiety and panic about uncertainties. I have silently shed a few tears during Child pose and shavasana multiple times. In my opinion and experience, this form of moving meditation is one of the best methods of anger management. When I would enter a studio furious or disappointed, after exerting myself to exhaustion for a while, I leave knowing that I can eventually forgive, let go, and move on. Yoga has provided important positive reminders of my blessings and confirmations of my strengths through all of my breakups and heartbreaks. When friends tell me about certain hardships they’re facing that I cannot help with besides offering emotional support, I pray for them and send positive energy towards their way when I shut my eyes during lotus pose.

There were plenty of triumphs and happy moments to share with my metaphorical old friend too. During the classes I attended right after achieving something important to me, I felt invincible from controlling my body to take actions in just the ways I want. Very often when my mind is cleared from moving from pose to pose, the things I appreciate and those I treasure in my life would randomly pop into my mind, and I would be grateful for their existence. And maybe it’s all the “heart-opening poses,” but when I am happily in love, I would smile and giggle through the movements and my affection for that person would feel intensified somehow afterwards. At the peaks of my self-confidence, I would feel extra powerful and beautiful from being able to move gracefully, making me feel like a badass Peaceful Warrior.

Through doing and the words from instructors over the years, I’ve learned the following from yoga:

  1. Some pain is inevitable, but it won’t last forever, and you will get through it and become stronger if you just breathe– Yoga poses such as the Chair, Thunderbolt, and Pigeon are very straining and I used to freak out and tense up during them. That did not help at all. Now I remember to recognize the fact that the ache or discomfort I sense is all in my head instead of actually causing my body or spirit any harm. Acknowledging that the unpleasant sensation is only temporary makes it much more bearable.
  2. Usually the worst possible outcome that could happen when you try something new is just failure, and you can simply try again I remember the first time I saw a teacher demonstrate the Crane pose. Immediately I thought “Oh hell no, there’s no way I can do that craziness. I’m not strong enough.” After observing for several months, I finally made an attempt, and I did fall. It was only a few inches above the ground—I was fine and I didn’t die from the embarrassment. I still can’t hold it for very long but I have made a lot of progress from improving a tiny bit each time I try.
  3. The journey is just as valuable as the destinationCliché, I know, but very often I enjoy the moving and the stretching parts much more than arriving at the final alignment. I like to take my time with the transitions, flowing from one pose to the next. My favorite part of the Reverse Warrior pose is extending my palm as forward as possible, then making the biggest arc I can with my arm up and over. Yes, I can also choose to rush through that section or lengthen less and still end up at the same position, but it won’t be as beneficial.
  4. It may seem like you are competing against other people, but really you should just focus on yourself– I was still a teenager when I first started doing yoga. Out of self-consciousness, I constantly looked around to see what other people were up to in class. A couple of times I actually lost my footing because I was so distracted from stealing glances at others. I thought those more experienced than me would judge me or laugh at my novice, but eventually I noticed that nobody was even paying attention to me. Everyone was concentrating on his or herself, and I started to do the same. There’s no need to worry about what others think of you when the most important approval you need is from within. Spending the energy to compare yourself with others, when the only thing you can control is yourself, is a waste of precious time.
  5. Put in the effort to know and understand yourself well– Just because you did the Half Moon pose perfectly last week doesn’t automatically mean you can do the same today, and there’s nothing wrong or shameful about that. Both you and and your body are complex beings that could change according to different circumstances every day. Listen to your own evolving unique mix of needs, and pay attention to what could possibly be holding you back or hurting you. It’s good to know your limits because then you can try to push them, but knowing when to take a breather is just as equally essential (which is why I personally do not like bikram yoga).

Occasionally when I couldn’t do yoga due to one reason or another, honestly I would crave it acutely like something is missing within me or off. I know when I need it, and no matter what, I have never come out of yoga regretting going in the first place (And I certainly have gone to class hungover, tipsy, extremely low on sleep, or already sore). You could say that it’s a form of self-therapy, which is definitely much healthier and more effective than some alternative methods.

If you’re thinking about trying yoga, check out my old post that might be helpful: “Get Your Zen On and Yoga It Up.”

Here’s to a wonderful new year!

Namaste,

Chin

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