“The poses are the way in.”
It’s a phrase I first heard several years ago when I started my yoga practice. I must admit, I had no clue what it meant. Frankly, it sounded like the instructor was a bit tipsy off the yoga Kool-Aid, but my curious mind kept me listening.
To be honest though, I wasn't looking for a way in so much as a way out.
Yoga came into my life exactly when I needed it.
Life was moving at a frantic pace. I was an anxious 30-something determined to please everybody but myself. I was a pro at going through the motions of life, but I wasn’t really living.
While I had much to be thankful for, I still longed for more—a deeper connection with life. Would yoga be my quick ticket to enlightenment?
A Practice in Patience
When I think about my first yoga class two years ago, I remember being bored and restless. I didn't quite get what all the hype was about. I felt more than a little intimidated by the poised and graceful women around me who mostly filled the perfect “size 6” mold of professional dancers.
My type-A personality wanted results as quickly as possible, but not surprisingly, my first class did not lead me straight to the enlightened path. Where was the enlightenment Buddha promised?
Despite my lack of immediate results, something kept me returning to my mat. At the time, I told myself it was because I wanted to get my money’s worth (after all, I was paying a hefty fee to finally belong to a gym again). In reality, though, I believe that what kept me coming back was something deeper.
I genuinely believed that yoga had the power to transform my life. I also accepted that I would have to be patient, committed, and willing to do the hard work. For me, that meant stepping outside my comfort zone and focusing on my personal journey, wherever that might take me.
The Way in
When I transitioned from basic yoga to an intermediate, fast-paced Vinyasa Flow, I was overwhelmed by the physical and mental challenges. However, it was the high intensity that finally forced me to quiet my mind and focus on my breath. I slowly let go of the lifelong holding patterns that were comfortable. I flowed, and flowed, and never looked back.
Yoga has shown me that just as it’s easy to muscle your way through a pose, it's easy to muscle yourself through a tough day, even if there is a better way. It’s more difficult to relax the parts of my body where tension is stored (hello, shoulders!), and it’s surreal to discover that I intentionally cause myself tightness because it’s easy.
But it is easy, just like it’s easier to live in tension than to acknowledge and experience the reality that I would rather toss aside.
While I still have a ways to go, my yoga journey has taken me so far already. I’ve allowed myself to explore my deepest hidden emotions (good and bad), and while it’s not always easy, I’m better for it.
Any kind of transformation is life-changing, even if the changes are extremely subtle. ~Shelly Gill
Subtle changes like the strengthening of muscles are both physical and mental. Yoga is so much more than a physical practice, but I’m not going to lie; when my best friend told me my arms looked toned, I had a smile on face for the rest of the day.
Yoga has even changed my view of others. Where I once scanned the class with judgment toward those who were stronger or younger than me, I now see a diversely wonderful group of friends who are joining together as a community to practice.
Each time I return to the mat and the poses, I gain a deeper self-awareness that I am thankful for. The poses let me in, as my teacher has mentioned on several occasions, and just like life, the way in is not always perfect, but it’s authentic.
It turns out what I needed wasn't really a way out of my life, but a way into actually experiencing it, instead of just muscling through it. It may not be Buddha's enlightenment, but it sure feels good to me!
Shelly Gill is a member of the DOYOUYOGA Community. The opinions and statements expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of DOYOUYOGA and Skyrocket Media.