April 18, 2014

Teachings On & Off the Mat. ~ Kelly Kaiana


People come to yoga for many different reasons—perhaps it begins as a desire to get fit or more flexible, a desire to learn how to relax and breathe properly, a search for something deeper in a world of that often feels full of blatant falsity.

Anyone who continues down the path of yoga will soon come to realize that aside from the initial reasons for jumping on the mat, there are a host of other benefits that arise that you never had contemplated in those dark, early morning, sleepy drives to the studio.

Yes, yoga will assist your body to strengthen and stretch, your mind to ease and let go and your spirit to find that connection to a deeper sense of purpose for being here in this moment.

Yet when I start my day with a yoga class, I find that my whole day is altered. Small things that may take me out of my center can not take hold of me. People who may test my patience become people I choose to converse freely with. Issues about my body, what I am eating, how I feel about myself—which is a continuous yo-yoing journey for me at the best of times—becomes simple, I can practice self love and self acceptance with much more integrity, ease and grace.

I believe that yoga has gifts to offer everyone and often they all are vastly different. What a class may offer a middle age man who works a nine to five job and has the weight of a family and mortgage on his mind, will be entirely different to what a class my offer a first time mother who is adapting to the joys and challenges of motherhood.

Yoga is not only for the stereotypical yogi that comes to mind when we think of a flexible student with their legs wrapped around their head, their mala beads on, the om tattoo on the back of their neck and their green juice waiting in an eco jar beside their Jade yoga mat.

Although I have a reasonably dedicated home yoga practice, whenever I take a class I am always reminded of how important and beneficial it is to practice with a teacher in a class environment.

You tend to go that little further into each pose, you move differently, breathe differently, pick up key alignment pointers and sink into a deeper space of focus than when you practice in the comfort of your own home.

When I do attend a class, I often lay on the mat in svasana not wanting the day to really begin, just wanting to stay in that space of blissful tranquility. Yet what I quickly realize upon stepping into the outside world, is that by doing a class in the morning it is possible to stay in that bubble of bliss and peace!

For the remainder of the day I tend to feel more competent of facing any obstacle that may come my way, I feel more aligned, more focused, more likely to nourish myself and give more freely and with greater focus to those around me.

By the end of the day I find myself in bed reflecting on how productive the day has been and how fulfilled and content my body and mind feels.

We forget so easily what our natural state of being looks and feels like. Taking a yoga class always serves to remind me, it always carries me back to this place of simplicity and joy.

Following the commitment and dedication to taking a class is easy once the long term affects of the class become so apparent. In gifting yourself the time to take a class no matter your schedule or obligations, you will always be repaid ten fold in ways you forget, until you are so beautifully and poignantly reminded.

Here are just a few ways that your day will be positively influenced by committing to a morning yoga class. This is only an example and you will tend to come to your own realizations about the ways in which yoga will support and inspire you off the mat as well as on.

We will have more patience.

Yoga teaches us stillness and calmness. That extends into our day-to-day life as we feel more capable of dealing with stressful situations. Whether you are stuck in traffic, dealing with over excited children, working with an approaching deadline or conversing with someone who normally pushes your buttons, yoga makes us more accepting of these things and allows us to approach situations from a new place of clarity and understanding rather than from a habitual space of stress or anxiety.

We will nourish ourselves better.

Yoga seems to join the dots more visibly between what we eat and how we feel—the way in which food is actually our fuel, the way in which we nature our body so we can move through our day feeling vibrant and energized. More likely than not you wont leave a yoga class craving fried eggs and bacon! You are more likely to leave feeling like a healthy option—steaming herbal tea or a freshly squeezed juice, fruit or muesli, wholegrain toast with avocado and lemon or some dried fruit and almonds.

Yoga reminds us of the simple pleasure of eating what nature offers, eating with the seasons, eating local and organic where possible. Yoga makes us more mindful and more self-loving, both of which helps us to make better choices in what we put inside our bodies.

We will connect with our purpose.

Yoga reminds us of the importance of taking time for ourselves. In our day-to-day lives we can become so focused on our obligations and responsibility that we tend to put ourselves last. It is a great lesson to learn and understand that when we do give ourselves the opportunity to do things that we love, that nourish our soul, we are then in a far better place to give.

The resentment of not having time to do the things that you truly love falls away. When your own glass is full, it can then topple over to fill and nourish those you love also. Yoga fills us with a deeper quest for purpose and it is by following our greatest passions that this fulfillment is often reached. We all have gifts to share with the world, and when we take the time to prioritize them, amazing things tend to occur.

We will feel inspired to give.

Yoga centers on the concepts of oneness, union and connection. It instills in us that basic knowledge that our actions have repercussions that ripple out into the greater world, and these can either be of a positive or negative kind.

Yoga tends to make us feel more connected to humanity, and in that place of love, it feels more natural and more compelling to help others and give more of what we can. There are many charities and causes that have stemmed from this idea of taking yoga off the mat and into the world.

The self empowerment that yoga instills in us encourages us and reminds us that we can make a difference, that each little step does help, and in that knowing, we are more inclined to reach out and make the changes we wish to see in the world. Yoga teaches compassion, and it is here, that real change is possible.

Our perspective will shift.

With the global view that yoga inspires, the little things that can bother us on a day-to-day level become les significant—the tiny nuances that can rob us of sleep become less important as we become more aware of the fleeting nature of this life and become more grateful for what we have rather than what we don’t have.

We come to see the miracles that surround us in everyday life and see the silver lining in all circumstances rather than focusing on the black clouds.  s you move through your day, you find you can let go of things easier, you can focus on the positive, you can find beauty in the smallest of things, simply because your mind and heart feel more open and aligned.

We will have more compassion.

Yoga tends to naturally make us more compassionate towards ourselves and towards others, yet it also teaches us to have more compassion to animals and all living things we share this world with.

Yoga speaks of the concept of ahimsa—living a life of no harm. While a yoga class wont turn you into a tree-hugging vegan the first time around, it does have the natural ability to make us more mindful.

Yoga teaches us to question our natural surroundings, and while we once may have indulged in food or practices that seemed natural and commonplace, yoga begins to open a door to a deeper level of inquiry. As you dive deeper into the study, practice and lifestyle of yoga, your choices may tend to naturally shift as you contemplate the importance of all things great and small.

As I write these observations, it becomes clear how they all interchange and connect. From a wider perspective, the mindfulness that yoga teaches opens out into all aspects of our life—from the way we interact with others, to the way we see the world, to our attitude towards violence and injustice, to what we view as truly important in this day and age.

As I mentioned above, taking a yoga class will not immediately turn you into a green juice guzzling, mala bead-wearing, incense burning, vegan hippy. Yet it will change you, you will notice the ways in which past mindsets and ways of being shift easily and naturally towards ways that are more inline with living harmoniously.

This is a good thing! Do not fear these changes or resist them! Change can feel frightening because it is different—we get so locked into ways of being and thinking that we forget to question anything. Yet it is in the inquiry and the seeking of knowledge that change occurs, and now more than ever the changes that yoga inspires are much needed.

Try committing to a class each week in the beginning, and notice how different that day of the week feels for you. We are creatures of habit, so it makes sense to ensure those habits ones that nourish us and ripple out to create a positive effect in the greater world.

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Apprentice Editor: Holly Horne/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Mish Sukharev, Flickr

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Kelly Kaiana