tree pose on cliftA funny thing happens when I step onto my yoga mat to practice.  I sit and close my eyes.  Take my first deep breath and as I exhale I release something that allows me to sink into this deep still place.

I didn’t always feel this way during my practice.  It’s taken a decade of practicing and teaching yoga for me to finally calm the chatter, if only for a few minutes.

With this overall sense of peace and calm comes several benefits (off my mat) that I’ve always read about and wanted, but had never experienced until recently.

1. Surrender

Oh what a powerful and somewhat illusive word!  What does it really mean to surrender anyway?

It means that you allow things to be the way they are right now.  It simply means that you have arrived at a certain level of acceptance.

On the yoga mat there will always be things that are difficult for you to do.  You may never be flexible enough to sit in lotus or strong enough to stand on your head with no hands. (Yes people actually do that)

All of this is okay.  You don’t EVER have to be flexible enough or strong enough.  How you are right now is more than sufficient.

The funny thing is when you learn to accept what you can and can’t do on your yoga mat you start to also accept other things in your life.

So you may NEVER have your idea of perfect communication with your husband.  Your kids may NEVER do what you ask them when you ask them to do it. And your house may NEVER be “magazine clean.”

And this is okay too.  The first step to changing a thing is to accept the thing as it is in this moment.

Surrendering and accepting is one way to find peace through yoga practice.

Learn and practice simple and effective ways to let go an surrender on your yoga mat in my 4-part series of 30-minute streaming yoga classes. Get the deets here!

2. Identify Your Control Issues.

When I was a child gymnast I always hated to stretch.  I felt like I was pulling my limbs apart on purpose and it NEVER felt good to me. But I had to do it anyway.

What I notice now, as I stretch my old muscles on my yoga mat is that my resistance to stretching is an indication of my high need to control everything.

Holding and tensing our muscles in one way we control our environment.  We do this on our yoga mats, but we also hold (our breath) and tense (our muscles) in every day life when we’re stressed and trying to be in control.

With every stretch, yoga offers us the opportunity to let go. To release our effort. To release just one more millimeter of control.

The irony is that our bodies will never allow itself to go any deeper than it wants to. The body has a “vested” interest in NOT hurting itself.  So it won’t.  Even if you let go of control.

What we ultimately come to realize is that on our mats we can always choose to back out of the stretch. And in real life, we can always choose to make adjustments that will ease our discomfort too.

In reality, letting go doesn’t mean giving up control, it means holding on to faith and giving up FEAR!

Identify your own control issues on your yoga mat in my 4-part series of 30-minute streaming yoga classes. Get the deets here.

3. Mindfulness.

If I had to answer in one word what yoga was about I would probably say mindfulness.

What does it mean to be mindful?

It means that we pay attention TO and stay present FOR whatever is happening right NOW.

Most of us can identify with eating and watching television.  We can get so engrossed in the TV show that the food mysteriously disappears in the blink of an eye.

We weren’t even conscious of how much we ate. We just know that we feel too full to move now.

On our yoga mats it’s really difficult NOT to be mindful when you’re standing on one foot with the other foot skyward and your hands clasped around your leg and behind your back. In a pose like that it’s kind of hard to think about the horrible thing your husband said to you last night in a fight.

You need focus to hold a pose.  You become aware of how your body feels in difficult poses.  You become aware of how good your body feels in others.

I’ve found that the more I practice yoga and consequently practice being mindful on my mat the better able I am to be mindful during other activities of my life.

It may not sound like a huge accomplishment but I can now slow down eat a delicious desert and tastefully savor every single bite.  Something I never was able to do before because I thought I had something else to do in every moment. This (savoring a delicious meal) is what mindfulness looks like in real life.

This mindfulness can easily translate into your relationships, your work and any other aspect of your life.  When you are present for the activities of your life you are simply better able to enjoy them.

That means you’re better able to enjoy your kid’s laughing, your husband’s touch, your homemade meal and the feel of your sheets on your skin at night.  These are the little things that make life so sweet – right?

Yoga is not a quick fix. It’s not a cure-all. But it’s certainly a journey worth taking to find your peace in a busy world.

Having trouble finding your “center”? 

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