By Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga founder
The physical benefits of yoga are quite well known by anyone who has taken at least a couple of classes (yes, the first class may be discouraging, because THE STIFFNESS, but we all know the goods are coming).
But for, me it’s not just the flexible (-rer) spine or the fact that I can climb a few stairs more without losing breath that keeps me practicing. It’s the side (our actually – the main) bonuses that I reap from living yoga as much as I can in the last few years.
Here are 5 things I’ve learned through yoga
Self-awareness. Probably like most people and especially those walking the usual path of idolizing perfection, achievement of certain set of goals and not losing a moment of “important life experiences” I was actually quite stuck up in my little mind and focusing on just those tasks (with lots of micromanagement!) rather than on how I feel about them, do they actually fulfill me, what is it that I REALLY want and what makes me happy every day and in the grand scheme of things. Only when I stopped (with the help of yoga) and listened I became so much more self-aware, much more in tune of what TRULY matters to ME and I am not talking only about career or work, but the whole picture.
This could not be achieved without gaining better control and understanding of my emotions. As someone who’s always been quite reactive, I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel anger, sadness, anxiety and all the other adjacent emotions without letting them take control of me. Once I identify what’s going on – the negative emotions loose half or more of their power, do not affect my day to day life in general and just pass by like anything else in life. I like to call this the identification of Ego. Is this my ego talking? Am I angry, because my ego was hurt, am I anxious, because my ego is scared? Once you separate the ego from the actual you – voila, best conscious uncoupling example ever!
Gratitude. I am not sure I’m really feeling this word as it’s been so overused, but it does not change the fact that learning gratitude was one of the most important things I’ve learned through yoga. Gratitude for what I have (not only material goods) and for what I am able and capable to have. Again, like many people and like many of our cultures, for a long time my goal was to get MORE – more experiences, more achievements (in work and life), more check’s on the to-do list (self-inflicted list, may I add). But once I figured out that I already have so much and started applying the philosophy that I will still be happy and content whether I check that item of that list or not – a huge burden was taken off of my shoulders.
One of the more humbling effects of the yoga practice was finding the deeper connection to the world. I’m not talking about just meeting all kinds of wonderful people and learning from them, but also feeling connected to the world in a way that minimizes your ego by a ton. Realizing that we’re ALL in this together helps to wave away the very selfish focus on only yourself and your problems, it only makes you feel somehow better by knowing that we all have the same needs, desires, dreams, and issues. None of us are the center of the universe and the sooner more people realized the sooner many of the world’s problems will go away.
The last point is an all-encompassing one. Through yoga, I’m able to achieve a general mental lightness that I’ve had so much trouble finding before. I am going through life with a lighter step, without focusing on the negative so much, without too much pressure of how and when will achieve some imaginary goal or task, without the fear that I will miss out on something and with much more certainty that things will be OK. They definitely will.