by Julie Hornok | September 29, 2016 3:04 pm
I was thrown into a room for 200 hours with a group of 15 people that I had never met, all from diverse backgrounds and with strong differing opinions. I was taught new skills, pushed to my limits mentally and physically, and forced to work together with others on a daily basis. The strangest part is that I readily signed up and paid to be there. Sounds like the recipe for the next guilty-pleasure reality show, right? Nope. Even better: Yoga Teacher Training.
As the dust started to settle on my newly acquired certificate, I realized that not only had this experience bettered my yoga practice, but it had also given me eight insights that carry over into everyday life.
1) Yoga really is for everyone.
I was 40 years old, still hoping to lose that baby weight (it was about time since my youngest child was nearly a decade old), and I had pushed off my own dreams long enough. As I walked into my very first day of yoga teacher training, I was terrified that I would be greeted by a group of wrinkle-free 20-year olds with perfect bodies, strict vegan diets and zen-like personalities. I was pleasantly surprised to find just about every age, body-shape, and personality possible. Although we had all walked different paths in life, we were now here for the same reason…to better ourselves in our practice and as people.
2) There is Peace in Turning Inward.
At first, I wanted to compare myself to everyone in the room….were they younger, stronger, in better shape, more flexible, and/or better dressed? Comparing myself to others quickly became a source of discontent. The only person I needed to compare myself to was me. As I let go of the need to live up to what the others were doing and turned inward, it brought the peace to move forward and the clarity to concentrate on the right things.
3) Taking criticism is an art.
Each time we stood up in front of the class and guided our fellow peers through a portion of a yoga class, we then participated in a “feedback” process where others shared how we could improve. It became obvious that taking criticism must be as intentional and practiced as any craft or valuable skill. It never felt good to hear something I said or did was wrong. Even if it was true, it still hurt and was easy to become defensive. Sometimes peoples’ “suggestions” felt more like cut downs, but with the right filters in place, I learned to take what is constructive in and dispose of the rest before I let it sink too deep. With each critique, I asked myself two questions, “Are these words true and does this person have my best interest in mind?” If either of the answers to these questions is “no”, then I did not take the criticism to heart. I would picture myself physically dumping the words in the trash and moving on. If the answers were both “yes”, then I had to evaluate how I would handle it; would I allow it to make me bitter or better?
4) How we handle difficulty on our mats is how we handle it in life.
We participated in an intense breathing exercise that involved 15 minutes straight of quick, sharp continuous breaths through our nose. Our eyes began to water, our noses began to drain, and our fingers and toes began to go numb. Some students took breaks, some quit completely and others broke down in tears. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
Half way through the exercise, I was in trouble, but with the help of my partner, I dug deep, pushed through and when the timer went off, my tears began to pour. I now understood the purpose of the exercise. My reaction in this breathing exercise was exactly how I reacted in real life. I held myself together strong through tough circumstances and then broke down the minute the worst had past.
5) Our true character comes out when we are pushed to our edge.
As I observed a Hot Vinyasa class, I saw the benefits of yoga from a totally different perspective. The long holds toward the end of the class became especially challenging, and it was quite telling to watch how different yogis handled the challenges placed in front of them. Similar to the breathing exercise, some quit completely, some took breaks, some got really irritated with the instructor and others looked to be digging deep and giving it their all. Better to find out how we handle stress on our mats in a yoga class than in a customer service line at the grocery store.
6) Perfection is an excuse, not an action.
Practice doesn’t make perfect on our mats or in life. We are and forever will be works-in-progress. I learned to start with what I already knew, then add on and go deeper with what feels good in my body each time I practice. Not trying something just because we can’t do it right now doesn’t get us any closer to our goal. Moving forward in small steps over a period of time is the way most accomplishments are achieved.
7) We have a choice every day to be a positive light or a negative influence.
Things happen. People happen. Life gets to be more than we can handle, and then our stress reactions happen.
Charles R. Swindoll said, “We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
It comes down to a simple choice. Will we choose to focus on the positive or the negative?
8) Wisdom is gained in silence.
Although we could all use a nap from time to time, Shavasana is not for sleeping. Taking the time to clear the mind at the end of our practice not only leaves us refreshed, renewed and ready to take on our day, but it opens our mind to insights we might have otherwise missed. Insights that can only be gained in when we allow ourselves to slow down, unplug, and become silent.
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