Since starting my yoga journey and classes at Flow Yoga three-plus years ago, I have learned a lot. Not only have I learned how to “do” yoga, but along the way I have also learned valuable life lessons:
- Dress the part. Then, fake it until you make it.
I am not suggesting that you need expensive, designer yoga duds. However, on days when motivation to attend class is rapidly waning, changing into my yoga clothes, even hours before class, can give me the boost needed to actually make it to class. I might not be where I want to be, but it is where I need to be; and eventually, I will want to be there as well. At the end of the day, the extra effort pays off ten-fold.
- Don’t be afraid of extra support.
In yoga class, using props, such as blocks, straps, and bolsters, not only provide additional support during yin and restorative practices, but they can help make an otherwise inaccessible pose accessible during a yang practice. While everyone may be using their props during Yin Yoga class, it can be embarrassing to need your prop when no one else is. While attending classes pregnant, I frequently brought in enough props to build a fort! There may be times where we may need to ask the instructor for help or accept an assist. Similarly, in life, there are times we need extra help. Even if we are uncomfortable asking for it, it is important to not be afraid to request or accept help when we need it the most.
- You be you and I’ll be me.
Attending yoga class as a new student was intimidating. Seeing other students perform advanced poses, handstands, and full splits while I am struggling to make it through class feels discouraging. But, I am learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is okay to use a prop or take a modification of a pose to accommodate one’s unique body. It is also okay to sit on your mat and take a break if needed. Tempting as it is, life is not about constantly comparing ourselves to others. Especially with the pervasiveness of social media and mom shaming, I constantly struggle with this, but have at least started to find peace on the mat.
- Challenge yourself and try new things.
I remember being in class and hearing nervous laughter erupt when the instructor announced we were going to attempt the Bird of Paradise pose. Trying new things can be uncomfortable and scary, but I have come to love the opportunity to challenge myself and attempt a new pose. In life, I hope to muster the same courage as well.
- Celebrate victories, big and small.
There are days when making it out of my house and to yoga class feels like a small miracle. The first time I stayed in the room for the entire hot flow felt like a feat. Finally achieving a tripod headstand — albeit brief — was a cause for celebration. Life is filled with many moments, big and small. Rather than brushing the small moments under the rug, relish them and find joy in everyday living. Which leads me to number six…
- Always do your best and treat yourself with kindness.
In don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, he encourages readers to “always do your best,” reminding them that their “best” varies day to day due to circumstance. Our “best” is not a lofty, unachievable goal. Recognizing that we have attempted to do our best, circumstances notwithstanding, is a step towards self-acceptance. We are all imperfect people, with good days and bad days.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
“Find your breath.” Sound familiar? This is how every yoga class begins, yet by the middle of class, the instructor is usually admonishing the class, “return to your breath” and “don’t forget to breathe.” We become caught up in going through the motions — desperately trying to survive the next moment, hour, day, or week — and we forget to find the breath that sustains us. The moments when trying to find your breath is the most challenging are the moments that you need to breathe the most. On or off the mat, take a moment to pause and find your breath, then tackle life’s challenges with renewed strength.
- Do what you love and love what you do.
Find something in your life that gives you joy: A career that fulfills a sense of purpose, a cause that fuels your passion, or a pastime that brings a smile to your face. Allow your experiences to propel you forward, rather than hold you back.
- Find your community.
Like many transplants in the metro D.C. area, we lack a familial support system. I found support and encouragement from the Flow Yoga instructors and my fellow Flowgis, particularly when I was pregnant. Likewise, over the years, I have developed bonds and friendships with a handful of individuals who have stuck by me for life’s joys and sorrows. Surround yourself with people who uplift you and support you in your time of need.
Life is a journey that requires compassion, vulnerability, and a commitment to continual learning. Sometimes, life lessons emerge, surprising us by the where and how, before ultimately influencing our path and developing our inner strength.
— Amanda Kennon
Image: Amanda Kennon