One of the spookily cool things I love about yoga is that it gives us what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. That we don’t actually get what we signed up for, but often something much bigger and more powerful than we imagined.
I have lost count over the years of the number of students who have told me “I had no idea I would sleep so much better” or “my running/cycling/rugby has improved so much, I had no idea that would happen.” Speaking for myself, I had no idea what I would get from yoga when I took it up over a decade ago in London. There have been so many unexpected benefits for me on top of the obvious; be more flexible, get stronger and so on.
So I wanted to share with you what for me are the top 5 things I didn't expect to learn from yoga.
1. That Yoga Doesn’t Just Happen On The Mat
That yoga is so much more; it’s a science, it’s a way of life, it’s a route to well-being and completion in mind, body and soul. When I am present whilst doing the washing up, noticing the bubbles shine and the feel of the warm water on my hands, I am doing yoga. When I try and meet every new contact expecting the best and being open to what The Universe might bring, I am doing yoga. When I collaborate with another well-being provider to spread our message of well-being, I am doing yoga. That what goes on off the mat is just as important as what goes on on it.
2. That I Can Learn To Reduce My Own Stress Response
I do this through pranayama (breathing techniques) and I can do this anywhere, not just in class. I can reduce my stress response in the office, in the boardroom, in the dentists chair. I use it all the time.
3. That I Need To Relax!
I can’t tell you how much I resisted “final relaxation” when I first started yoga. You have never seen anyone fidget about so much! I was wedded to the idea that only action was worthwhile. In the end I finally clicked that my Type A personality really, really needed to learn to switch off and relax. That relaxing is not “doing nothing,” it’s actively doing a thing, a very valid thing, that our body needs as much as food or water -- and that is resting and recharging. I believe the ability to actively relax is becoming a lost art, which is why I focus on it heavily and I believe our Final Relaxation sequence is the best out there!
4. That Time To Be Actively “Non-Competitive” Is Super Good For Mind And Body
Working in the media in London, I had no idea how much I was hardwired to compete and how much stress that was causing me. To be in a class where I could participate without judgment or competition was a massive part of my own personal journey. To not be the best, but just to enjoy where I was at. To be accepting of my body, and therefore who I am as a person. That I am “good enough” just as I am.
5. That I Will Never Be The Most Bendy And That's Totally Okay
I am there and that's what’s important. It’s called "practice" for a reason. There is no end. That I can inspire and lead with my love for this practice without being a member of Cirque Du Soleil. That teaching and encouraging and praising are far surer routes for me to lead. And that the right people will find me. I just need to create the environment for them to flourish.
Yoga changed my life in the most unexpected ways for which I will always be thankful. It truly gave me what I NEEDED and not what I thought I wanted, and I love that incredible ancient wisdom showing up in the most tangible of ways.
What unexpected benefits have you gained from your practice? Please do comment below, I would love to have you be a part of this conversation. List one unexpected thing you have learned from your yoga practice! :-)