Starting a yoga practice was one of the best decisions I ever made. Yoga changed my life in many ways. Here are the top three significant ones.
1. Yoga Taught Me to be More Considerate
I used to be a workaholic. I got so absorbed in writing that I would ignore phone calls for several days at a time.
My family got worried, because they thought something bad might have happened to me. At the time, I blamed them for being needy. That wasn't nice. There is nothing "needy" about wanting to stay in touch with a person you love. Now I have more empathy.
You might be confused. Many people think of yoga as a physical exercise... so, how could yoga influence me on such a deep and personal level? Here's the deal. Yoga isn't merely about health and fitness. It's a profound philosophy about how to be a better person.
Ancient yoga texts such as, "The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali," discuss ahimsa: compassion for all living creatures. To practice ahimsa, you must treat every person the way you want to be treated. Many yogis and yoginis eat a plant-based diet, because they apply ahimsa to animals, too.
2. Yoga Taught Me to Accept My Shortcomings
Never begin a diet, fitness routine, or personal development plan to "fix" yourself. You are absolutely perfect the way you are.
For the record: "accepting" your shortcomings is not the same thing as doing nothing about them. Don't be complacent. However, positive change cannot occur from a place of self-hate.
I have weird compulsions. Two examples include smoking cigarettes and picking at calluses on my hands. I used to call myself a "bad person" for doing these things. That always backfired. I would feel ashamed, get stressed out, and then be even more tempted to do the thing.
I completed yoga teacher training this year. My teachers encouraged me to meditate and write a journal entry after my personal yoga practice. Self-reflection helped me figure out my biggest triggers. Now I am able to avoid temptation.
Stress makes me want to smoke, so I avoid negative news stories. Boredom causes me to pick at calluses, so I try to stay busy.
3. Yoga Taught Me to Stop Making Comparisons
I remember when I used to get jealous of all the graceful women in yoga class. In case you weren't aware, I am a clumsy man.
Watching female students hold Tree Pose for over a minute made me feel jealous. My coordination was so poor that I couldn't stand on one foot for more than a few seconds.
It gets worse. The first time I tried Half Moon, I fell on my butt. I was so embarrassed I wanted to disappear. Do you know the feeling? If so, please don't feel bad. You're not alone. Lots of beginners feel self-conscious in yoga class.
Building confidence takes time. Be patient.
Yoga isn't about who can do the best split or handstand. It's cool to be able to do those poses, but don't become attached to them. They might not be appropriate for your body at this time. Be gentle. Don't compare. It defeats the purpose.
Forget about what everybody else is doing. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would show a pet, partner, or person you love.
How has yoga changed your life? Tell us in the comments!