11 Profound Ways Yoga Changed My Life
When speaking with someone who doesn’t practice Yoga & has never tried Yoga, it can be difficult to explain exactly what my own Yoga practice means to me. To better understand where I’m coming from when I share all of the ways that Yoga has changed my life, I wanted to share a little bit of my background.
I came to Yoga a little bit later in life than most people. I didn’t attend a Yoga class until my 40th birthday. My assumption was that Yoga was all about stretching & gaining flexibility which I was sure would help me as I continued my journey through life as an “over 40”. What I wasn’t expecting was the profound impact Yoga would have on my life & that I would turn into one of those people who can’t stop talking about Yoga. I literally recommend Yoga to all of my friends &, when I find myself in conversation with someone new, I can’t help but gush about all of the profound ways that Yoga has changed my life.
11 Ways Yoga Has Changed my Life
Yoga Has Taught Me to Love My Body
As women, we tend to live our life in a state of unhappiness when it comes to our bodies. I don’t think I am alone in feeling uncomfortable & disappointed in my own skin. I spent 40-years of my life feeling inadequate, especially when it came to my body. My stomach was never flat enough, my thighs were always too large, my breasts were never perky enough…the list goes on & on. With every glance in the mirror, I became aware of some other facet of my appearance I wanted to change.
As I fell deeper into my Yoga practice, however, my outlook on my body began to change.
Now, 10-years into my Yoga practice, I find myself loving my body as it is. My body is an exquisite vessel, carrying my soul & my spirit through life. I find myself loving the way my body moves & I am thankful for the strength it gives me & for its flexibility. Until I began to practice Yoga, I never realised the divinity of the human body.
Now, I understand that our complex biology & physiology is truly remarkable & deserving of celebration.
Yoga Has Taught Me to Slow Down
Life can be a mad rush sometimes.
For me, I had children later in life & as a 40-year-old woman, I found myself living a whirlwind life with my husband, a 6-year-old, & a 3-year-old. In our household, there was so much to be done & we were all moving a mile-a-minute.
As a wife, I wanted to support my husband in everything he was doing career-wise. As a mother, I wanted to afford my children every opportunity in life. As a career woman, I wanted to advance in my own career & be someone everyone considered successful. I was firing on all cylinders every hour of every single day. There were always chores to be done, homework to help with, lunches & dinners to be prepared…I had so many responsibilities that I was juggling, my head was spinning. I worried that if I dropped the ball, even once, I’d be letting someone down, so I kept running through life like a chicken with my head cut off.
When I found Yoga, I finally found a way to come up for air.
The thing about my former, fast-paced life, is that I wasn’t enjoying it. Sure, I was providing for my children, but I was missing out on the moments in their lives that really mattered. I wasn’t spending meaningful time with my husband & I was already successful in my career, I just needed to let go of this idea that I needed to seem successful to other people.
Yoga gave me the wherewithal to slow down. In a literal sense, Yoga taught me to take a moment to breathe. In a more figurative sense, Yoga taught me Mindfulness & allowed me to experience the sense of contentment that comes from living in the moment & allowing myself to actually experience life as it happens rather than rushing through trying to accomplish tasks that are little more than irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Yoga Taught me to Try New Things
If you’re a practicing yogi, you might be asking yourself, “why would this woman wait until she’s 40 to try yoga?” Now that I’m obsessed with Yoga & deeply in love with my practice, I often ask myself the same thing.
The reason I didn’t try Yoga until I was 40-years-old is that I thought it was silly. As I admit that, I know exactly what it says about me. My view on Yoga, having never tried it, is a good indicator of who I was at the time. I was sceptical & judgemental. I judged everyone that was running around in their Lululemon gear, drinking their kombucha & discussing their latest cleanse. It all sounded so silly to me &, like some sort of 30+ ageing hipster, I thought I was too cool for such trivialities.
When I finally made my way to my first Yoga class, however, my outlook changed. I walked out of that class feeling really, REALLY good & I couldn’t shut-up about it (I still can’t shut-up about it). This experience opened my eyes to all of the things I was missing out on in life because I judged them without even trying them. This included friendships with certain people, foods I thought seemed a bit pretentious, & a whole slew of natural wellness practices & products.
My experience with Yoga broadened my horizons in a big way. Now, one of my closest friends is someone I’d previously written off as a bit of a hippy, my husband & I go out for sushi at least once each week & Mindfulness has become a way of life for myself & my family.
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Yoga Taught Me to Run My Own Race
Something I have always struggled with in life is comparing myself to other people. As the youngest of three sisters, I was always comparing myself to my two older sisters & was routinely trying to match what they were doing.
As I got older, this behaviour continued. Throughout University, I compared myself to everyone in my class. I used all of my friends as metre sticks against which I measured myself. When my husband & I bought our first house, I was always comparing our home to everyone else’s on our street. I am extremely ashamed to say, I even made constant comparisons between my own children & everyone else’s.
As I got deeper into my Yoga practice, I found myself able to concentrate on myself more. It started out as, if I was feeling competitive, I would compete against myself. This small change expanded in significance & it allowed me to focus on what makes me happy. As it turns out, comparing myself to other people isn’t what makes me happy. Rather, it is running my own race & working toward & achieving my own goals from which I derive happiness & joy.
Yoga Taught Me to Take the Time to Listen
When I first started Yoga, listening to my Yoga instructors was essential. I didn’t know what I was doing, & I needed a lot of guidance to get the poses just right. As someone who had always been “the responsible one” & always knew the right thing to do, I was used to being listened to, not doing the listening.
In this way, Yoga alerted me to something I wasn’t even aware of. I wasn’t really listening to people. When my friends or family members would come to me with a problem or crisis, as they spoke to me, I was already working out in my head how I would solve it for them. I didn’t realise this wasn’t what they needed from me. What they needed me to do was listen to them & truly hear them.
Yoga Taught Me Patience
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll just come right out & tell you. I am an extreme Type A personality. My default setting it to be a demanding perfectionist who is competitive & exacting. I’m also the type of person who hates anything that I’m not immediately good at. I have little patience for learning new things & I expect myself to be good at something as soon as I try it.
Well, guess what…I was NOT good at Yoga when I first tried it. In fact, in my first class, I actually fell over more than once.
I’m not sure what it was that kept me from marching out of my first Yoga class & tossing my brand new Yoga mat in the trash, but whatever it was, I am so, SO grateful for it. Not only did I keep going to Yoga classes & improving, I started trying all sorts of things I’d tried previously & decided that I hated because I wasn’t immediately a super-star at them.
Since adopting a new attitude, cooking is one of the things that I’ve practiced, honed my skills & started to enjoy. I’ve always cooked for my family, but there has never been a great deal of variety in the meals I would prepare & the process was something akin to pulling teeth. Now, however, my family & I maintain a vegan diet & this has necessitated a great deal of creativity in the kitchen. Since Yoga came into my life, not only am I a much more versatile cook, I also enjoy the process of meal preparation much more than I used to.
Yoga Taught Me to Breathe
This sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course it does. If there’s one universal skill that humans are fundamentally good at, it’s breathing. We don’t even have to think about it. We just go about our lives & we keep on breathing. What a talent!
In Yoga, however, you learn to be conscious of your breathing. One of the amazing things about this newfound consciousness of my breathe sounds is that it has given me an extremely effective coping mechanism. As I maintain an awareness of my breath, it gives me something to focus on in moments of panic, anxiety, stress & fear. Not only has this served to improve my mental state, it has also given me a tool that has made me a better person.
An example of this? Well, my daughter is now 13-years-old. Just a few weeks ago, she went to her first party. Prior to the party, my daughter told me that there were going to be older teens at the party & that even high school seniors were invited.
Now, I don’t know what high school was like for you, but at my school, if there was an event that high school seniors were attending, that meant there would alcohol present & the party-goers would definitely be getting up to shenanigans. With my high school experience in mind, it was extremely difficult to let my daughter attend the party, but in the end, I let her go.
Before she left, I gave her a pep talk about calling me if she got in trouble or if she needed me for any reason. As she walked out the door, I struggled not to cry (an overreaction maybe, but what can I say? I love the girl). Throughout the evening, I sat with my husband watching movies. It was a rare that he & I were able to spend a night together, just the two of us. As the night progressed, I became acutely aware that I was ruining the evening by worrying about my daughter.
At the halfway point in the movie, my husband turned to me & said “just breathe. It’s going to be okay”. Of course he was right. As I focused on my breathing, it occurred to me that we were in the process of raising really wonderful teenagers. Our daughter was wise beyond her years & could be trusted to make good judgement calls. This realisation helped me sink in & enjoy the evening.
My daughter, true to form, did make a good judgement call. When she felt uncomfortable with a particular situation, she didn’t hesitate to call home & ask one of us to come & get her. When I picked her up from the party, I was still relaxed & was able to focus my energy on not hassling my daughter. I knew she’d talk about what happened when she was ready to & in short order, she filled me in.
Had I not been able to calm myself by focusing on my breathing, I would have deprived myself of the enjoyable time with my husband & I would have risked potentially damaging the relationship with my daughter by pestering her about what happened at the party & demanding she share before she was ready to.
Yoga Taught Me Confidence
A lot of people look at me & see me as a confident & self-assured woman. The truth is, however, that I am anything but. Inside, I am a messy ball of self-doubt & anxiety. I approach everything with this debilitating feeling that I am going to fail at it.
Through my Yoga practice, my lack of confidence has been abating.
I’ve been practicing Yoga for ten-years now, & I have to say, I’m pretty good at it. As I’ve already mentioned, I wasn’t always. In fact, I was really quite bad at it. I fell over in my first class & I kept right on falling over for a long time. Now, however, I have great balance, a lot of upper-body strength & killer flexibility.
My progress with Yoga has made me realise that I am capable of accomplishing pretty much anything I set my mind to. Since Yoga, I’ve started barefoot running & I’ve become an avid rock-climber. I finally had the courage to get my first tattoo five-years ago & I’ve now got three tattoos that I am absolutely in love with.
Since Yoga, I’ve discovered that the sky is the limit & I now have the confidence to reach for the sky & accomplish everything I’ve ever wanted in this life.
Yoga Taught Me Compassion
For me, Yoga has grown into more than just a personal practice. I’ve also become deeply ingrained in the Yoga community. As I’ve made friends with my fellow yogis, we’ve shared a lot of truths we would have ordinarily kept private. In the intimate conversations I have with my new group of friends, I’ve found a common thread which connects us all. We all approached Yoga (& most things in life) with trepidation, anxiety & fear.
This realisation affected me deeply.
Suddenly, when dealing with other people in my day-to-day life, I had a deeper understanding of why people behave the way that they do. When a stranger was rude to me in public, I was able to see things through their eyes which allowed me to come to grips with their motive. If someone cut me off in traffic, I found contentment in realising it wasn’t a personal slight & that the driver wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt me or ruin my day.
As the mother of two teenagers, a deeper level of compassion allowed me to empathise with my two kids & what they go through as a 16-year-old & a 13-year-old. This level of empathy has allowed me to have a much closer relationship with my son & daughter.
Yoga Taught Me to Work for What I Wanted
10-years into my Yoga practice, I still attend a lot of classes & in these classes, I meet a lot of different people. In one of the classes I attend regularly, I’ve become close with a 20-year-old girl who lives with her parents in my neighbourhood. We often carpool together & on our drive to & from class, she has said on many different occasions, that she really admires me. In her eyes, I am a 50-year-old woman who has it all together.
When I look at my life through my own eyes, I am indeed grateful for all of the things that I have. I am grateful for my husband, I am grateful for my children & I am grateful for my career. Still, I feel this desire to do & be more. This desire is impeded, however, by my fear of failure & my inability to invest my energy in anything I do not immediately excel at.
As someone who has become quite good at Yoga, however, I now realise that I can accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible. This has lead to one of the biggest changes in my life. After spending my life working toward becoming a medical doctor, I’ve given up my practice & returned to school to study architecture.
I’ve had many people in my class suggest to me that this is crazy & it just might be. Nonetheless, I am going to be the best darn architect I can be.
Yoga Taught Me to Trust Myself
The upshot of all that Yoga has taught me has been me flourishing & growing into someone who is so much more than I ever thought I could be. I have confidence enough to pursue new things & confidence enough to write an article about it & share it with all of you. All of this is something my 40-year-old self would be shocked by.
In getting to know myself through Yoga, I have also learned to trust myself. I trust my intuitions & gut reactions. When my children, my husband or my friends come to me with a crisis, I trust that I will instinctively know the right way to handle the situation (after I listen to everything they have to say, of course). Living without the weight of self-doubt crushing me has allowed me to excel in almost every area of my life & I am so grateful for that.
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