A few years back I went to a lecture on the proven medical benefits of yoga. As I sat taking in the information from the person speaking, I noticed the woman next to me simply could not sit still. Crossing, then uncrossing her legs. Bending down to rifle through her purse to find a stick of gum. Folding then unfolding her arms. There was no stillness to be found. It was an endless litany of distraction from what was happening at the moment.
It didn’t bother me. It was something that I noticed as the soaked up all of the good info. And I didn’t feel like I was somehow above this person because I was able to sit still and she couldn’t. It was more of a realization that people lived like that – in constant motion, their brain hopping from one task to the next.
Afterwards, we took a yoga class where we had rolled out our mats next to each other and the same thing happened while we moved through the postures. There seemed to always be something else to pay attention to, other than herself. I noticed time and again her eyes darted around the room, there was a constant grab for the water bottle or hand towel, and the postures never seemed to hit “stillness.” Again, I was just observing what was going on around me. No judgement. This was someone new to yoga and had yet to truly dive in to what it can bring to your life.
This is just one example of how what happens for you within your yoga practice is also happening for you when you step off the mat and into your life. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to observe other people’s practices as I teach. With that, I can see the different ways in which people are moving through their life and how it changes as they continue to practice.
Yoga is tough. It pushes you to be better in spaces you didn’t know you weren’t operating at your highest capacity.
The time on your mat is a snapshot of how you deal with tough situations. You could be always looking for distraction, as the woman I observed at the lecture, or you could be highly dramatic about the challenge at hand – moaning in between postures, sad for yourself and everything you have yet to accomplish.
I have also seen the yoga push people to anger, as they tighten up their facial muscles, swear under their breath when they fall out of a posture, and glare at themselves in the mirrors that line the room. And, there are the students that are highly judgmental of the people that are sharing in their practice, not able to let go of what someone else was doing on their mat or what they were wearing, or …. honestly, I’ve heard it all at this point.
And, as I witness all of this, I know that, for now, this is the way these people deal with tough situations and stress. They are emotional about what the yoga is giving them or looking for an escape route, or someone to blame. But, if they truly commit to the practice, all of this will fall away. Why? Because it’s eventually too exhausting to keep going on this way.
And so, the distractions, the drama, the anger, the judgment, or whatever it is that you have brought to the mat are a part of the past. How wonderful is that? If this happens for you within your yoga asana practice - if you go deep enough to allow it to change you - this change has a direct correlation to how you are treating your life.
You will be able to sit in stillness when that is asked of you. You will be able to lean into an uncomfortable situation without drama. You will not be so hard on yourself when things don’t go your way. You will have little judgement for the people you come in contact with, but instead know that they are doing the best they can in the moment.
And, this is all because YOU step on YOUR mat and do YOUR best as often as you can. All because you took care of you, first.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is an online yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.