April 29, 2012

Six Things Yoga Has Taught Me That I Wish I Knew In Middle School. ~ Kat Murphy

I happened upon yoga just at the brink of a quarter-life crisis.

And I thank the powers that be every day for this “coincidence.”

Up until that point in time, my life had been planned out. Middle school then high school. High school then college. College then… (insert panic moment here.)

Like many twenty-somethings out there, I knew very little about awareness, love and acceptance—particularly of oneself—before I stumbled into my first yoga class. I had spent my formative years being taught how to treat other people, and aside from various innocent mistakes along the way, I’d say I had done a pretty good job.

Yet not once had I considered giving myself the same benefit of the doubt that I gave others. Granted, this is not something that comes naturally to us Type A perfectionists. I was brimming with stress, anxiety, and self-criticism, and barely even aware of it.

I could go on for hours about how my yoga practice has carried me through challenges, how I couldn’t live without it now, and how I don’t know how I ever did. But for now, I’ll begin with this short list of a few of the beautiful truths it has exposed to me:

1. Stress and anxiety are real, natural, and completely manageable.

A certain level of stress is healthy; it helps motivate us to be productive human beings. Regular exercise and deep, mindful breaths help relieve unhealthy stress—a lot.

“In yoga I feel relaxed and calm. And it helps me when I am weird and scared. Why? It helps me to breathe deep breaths. Then I do not feel scared or weird.”~ Student of The Wellness Initiative (TWI), grade two

2. I am empowered to create my own world.

I am not a victim, and my situation depends upon my actions and reactions to the world around me.

“I believe that yoga has enhanced my good feelings toward life. I’m thinking more on not just my emotions, but on what mood I want to be [in], and I believe yoga has taken me into a happy place. Yoga has made me enjoy life from a different yet better view.” ~ TWI student, high school

3. Physical activity can be reflective rather than constantly competitive.

Instead of trying to outsmart, outrun and outplay everyone else, you can be satisfied with bringing your own mind, body and spirit to the edge, and then saying “OK, we can be here for a while,” without feelings of judgment or defeat.

“I avoid most sports and physical education classes simply because of the overwhelming competitive atmosphere they create. The object is to push yourself to the limit to prove you’re just as, or more, capable as everyone else. But yoga doesn’t put that kind of pressure on people. It encourages us to recognize our boundaries rather than try to force your way past them, and [it] makes us more comfortable with what we can do.” ~ TWI student, high school

4. It’s OK, and actually necessary, to play.

As they move into adolescence children lose their wonder and excitement about play and silliness. Yoga is a reminder that movement and expression, although powerful, should not be taken too seriously.

“While practicing yoga, I feel much less uncomfortable with the way I may look in moments of clumsiness; I’m able to laugh a lot more if I do something silly!” ~ TWI student, high school

5. Walk a life of compassion.

We are all human, learning life’s lessons together. Have faith in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Next time you’re annoyed or frustrated with someone, send love and light their way.

“Yoga has made me feel better about myself, to participate in things, and to be more respectful to everybody that is different from me more and more every day.” ~ TWI student, age 11

6. Accept yourself.

Society teaches us from an early age that there is a certain level of intelligence, strength, and even hardness that is expected from us. This pressure leads many children into perfectionism, anxiety disorders and other mental or emotional challenges. Forget all of that—you’re perfect as you are!

“Yoga helps me by finding the good person in me.” ~ TWI student, grade four

If you were able to give your younger self a piece of advice, a morsel of wisdom, what would it be?

Are you interested in helping to bring yoga to children to Colorado’s low-income schools? If so, join me for The Wellness Initiative’s 3rd annual Yogathon on May 5th in Boulder! For details, please visit: http://www.wellnessinitiative.org/2012Yogathon.html.


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

Kat Murphy, born and raised in a beach town on the coast of Jersey, she believes in self-reflection, getting lost in a good book, the healing powers of salt water, rooftop happy hours, child-like curiosity, and finding joy and laughter everywhere and anywhere. Kat spends her days at Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company in Louisville, CO, where she helps bring ideas about consciousness, awareness, compassion, wellness, and love to fruition via books, spoken word, music, video, and most recently, mobile apps! When she’s not at the office, you can find her practicing yoga, jogging around Boulder, volunteering with The Wellness Initiative, perusing the farmer’s market, hanging with friends, up in the mountains, or searching for the best pizza slice in town (come on, she’s from Jersey!). [email protected]

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