10 Important Things my Yoga Practice Taught Me.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Jan 23, 2013
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Every teardrop is a waterfall

Reflections from the yoga mat.

I was inspired by Kate Bartolotta’s recent post, So What Do Gomukhasana and Joseph Campbell Have in Common? This post got me thinking about what it is that I get from stepping onto my yoga mat almost every day.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Unapologetic “me” time. My yoga practice requires me to step inside of my own skin and focus on myself. At so many other points throughout my day, I’m needed by my toddler. There are definitely times when I’ve wondered if my daily practice is selfish, but I come to the same conclusion over and over again. I am a better mother to her because I have this space for myself.

2. Health. I’ll be the first to admit that I came to my yoga practice for my body. Yet I don’t think I ever expected my physical self to ultimately be the last thing I hop onto my mat for. Still, there’s no denying that I love the body that my yoga practice has made—and I love the health and invigoration I feel both during my mat and during the rest of my daily life.

3. Self-growth. I have absolutely grown as a person because of my yoga practice. It’s forced me to confront my ego, my needs for control and perfection, and my deeply ingrained type-A personality—and I can’t believe how much of these self-defining qualities no longer define me because of my practice.

4. Patience. I’m certainly not a patient person, but I’m more patient than I used to be. I think part of this comes from simply working on poses that literally took me years to get into the full posture (or I’m still working on). My practice has also taught me to enjoy those poses between poses—better known as life.

5. Take time to be still. Some of my best practices involve me sitting in the same place on my mat; focusing on my breath or getting deeply into one posture and then holding it. I’ve taken this stillness out into my daily life, and for a hyperactive ADD person, this is a huge accomplishment, no medication required.

6. I’m not the same person every day, and that’s okay. I can be a really moody lady, and my mat has let me come to terms with this. During my yoga practice, I feel out how my body and my moods are shifting all the time—and I’ve learned that my life is often most successful when I acknowledge and accept my current situations rather than always swimming upstream.

7. Happiness is my responsibility. Sure, other people can affect our moods—but they don’t get credit for causing them. Your happiness is your responsibility, period. My yoga practice gets the credit for this realization because I learned how much power and control I have over myself from my mat time. Example: if I’m distracted during a balance pose, it’s not the fault of the girl in front of me in class, it’s mine. Another example: during my home practice, I can really take the time to reflect on how I feel in the present moment physically, emotionally, and mentally; and I’ve experienced the power in letting these feelings fall away as I just focus on flowing from pose to pose. Many times, all that ends up being left afterwards is ease and a deep sensation of tranquility.

8. My body is beautiful. No, I didn’t reach this conclusion because of the physical body that my practice sculpts. Rather, I’ve been able to find an appreciation for myself on a much deeper level and this has forced me to accept that quite often, the level of satisfaction we have with our outer bodies is directly connected to the level of satisfaction we have with ourselves internally.

9. Yoga exists off the mat. Ironically, having a regular practice of asanas has taught me to see the yoga that I practice constantly, when I’m no where near my mat.

10. Be open. A lot of Kate’s blog revolved around the need to open ourselves up. For me, this is probably the most impacting thing I’ve learned from my mat time. Through poses I thought I’d never access and then did, I’ve learned to be open to final outcomes that you never expected or even dreamed of. I’ve also learned that opening your heart to other people, and to your own self, is scary and vulnerable—but it’s necessary to live your existence to its fullest. Open your heart, even when it hurts; because otherwise you will not experience the full range of joy that life has to offer either.

Let me say that these are the most life-impacting things I’ve learned from my regular yoga practice. Are these going to be the same important things you gain from your mat time? Probably not, because you and I are not the same; and I think I could make that number 11—to get the most from your yoga practice you have to tune in and experience it yourself.

Fortunately and unfortunately, the best aspects of life cannot be taught—they have to be lived and experienced by you alone. 

I do hope, however, that this list of lessons from my own personal experience has inspired you to figure out exactly what it is that you get from your own practice. Why, exactly, do you step on your mat?

Once you answer that, find more questions.

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


5 Responses to “10 Important Things my Yoga Practice Taught Me.”

  1. […] 10 Important Things my Yoga Practice Taught Me. […]

  2. […] I deepened my yoga practice by getting my Crossfit […]

  3. Paul Grant says:

    Anytime me and my wife doing yoga, we feel much more relaxed and calm for a long time. I notice for me morning time is the best time to do yoga. I guess it's different for everyone.

  4. Dirish says:

    Yoga has way more to it than getting a healthier body. While many people like myself will come to a Yoga class for getting a better body, I am pretty sure each of them do experience the spiritual aspects of it at some time if they stick to it. Over years of my Yoga practice, I have experiences huge range of benefits from Yoga. Thanks for summing up your Yoga experience in these ten beautiful points and sharing them here.