January 13, 2015

“If it Doesn’t Transform Your Life, it’s Not Yoga.”


I heard it so many times that it started to sound cliché: “Yoga transforms your life.”

Initially, I was filled with questions and doubt. If yoga holds this transformative power, why are all yoga students not deeply transformed and happy? In what conditions will this practice set people on the road to transformation? Ten years later, the statement about yoga as a life changing practice holds so true that I can postulate, “If it doesn’t transform you and your life, it is not yoga.”

How so?

No one can foresee in what precise ways yoga will change their life, and neither could I. The unfolding of the process had a degree of unpredictability to it, although the broad strokes followed a pattern.

The change started with me, the earnest practitioner who kept returning on the mat, again and again. But the further impact this personal transformation had on my life was not at all what I expected. It was not some gentle breeze-like sweep through my soul, like opening a window in springtime to have fresh air, sunlight and chirping of birds reaching through to delight my senses.

Yoga put me on a life-changing path that was nothing like this.

At first, I was overwhelmed. I realized that I was disconnected from all feelings except fear, pain and anger. Gradually, by getting in touch with myself, I started listening to my soul and understood it’s most arduous desires. My posture improved and spine injuries healed without surgery as a result of mindful and consistent practice. Each breath I took felt fuller and more satisfying. And while all this was happening I finally became aware of my true potential and my true identity.

I came to understand who I really am, and now I dare to live fearless and authentic, speak in my own voice, love deeper and claim what is rightfully mine: a fulfilling existence.

The bay bird has grown, and the nest felt too crowded. So she stretched out her wings to fly away and build a nest of her own. The chrysalis had become too tight, but at the right time the butterfly would come out.

I had finally stepped out of the shell I had outgrown and I expected the whole world to cheer and joyfully greet me walking into the light. That was a bit rushed: not everybody was as thrilled as I was about this new Me, and my new take on life. How could I forget about those who needed me to stay small, quiet, and afraid? If I set myself free, who would be there for them to control? On who would they dump their moods? Who would be there to take the blame for whatever went wrong?

Fellow yoga journeyer, you can probably relate and you know it by now: some people, the energy vampires, are not cheering over such transformation. They will try their best to bring us back into their world, so for our own good and safety, we must see. Yoga helped us grow, and it is this very growth that has gotten us into trouble, so to speak.

I fell down. But yoga also taught me to relax in moments of utmost intensity. It was my time to try it for myself and see whether I could relax, let go and smooth my landing instead of clenching, tightening up, and get crushed in the fall. Yoga also taught me about balance.

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I took it as an opportunity to test the efficiency of my practice, instead of an irrevocable condemnation. I handled the situation from a place of equanimity.

Yoga carried over into my life, creating mental and emotional balance.

I received and benefitted from my teachers’ guidance to stay present. On the mat I learned to stay present to sensation, to breath, to movement, or to just be in the moment. Whenever the wave crests and crashes noisily, I remind myself to stay present and live my challenge moment by moment. Not fretting in anticipation of what may come next prevents anxiety. Not stewing over the past prevents sadness or guilt.

The most difficult moments in life are indeed the ones that challenge our understanding and practice of yoga. On the mat I am constantly reminded to engage muscles just enough to sustain poses, yet without clenching. I am also reminded to mentally relax while physically engaging.

When the metaphoric mat gets pulled out and I feel life touching me not like a gentle breeze, but like a steamroller about to crush everything around and within me, it is the best opportunity to bring to life everything I have learned and practiced in yoga classes.

Life hitting hard is not the tragic end of your newly discovered self, dying before given a chance to live and express itself. Life hitting hard is the big moment of truth: we find out whether yoga has truly transformed our lives, or find out that what we have been practicing up to that moment was not truly yoga.


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Author: Daniela Simina

Apprentice Editor: Renee Jahnke/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Author’s Own

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Daniela Simina Apr 13, 2015 5:17pm

Hi Laura! I have a suggestion for you: a way to see the transformative power developing and peeking beyond what you may think possible for the moment. Pick up a smaller problem that you have to address. Something bothersome enough to qualify as a problem, yet not overwhelmingly difficult. Approach it with determination yet with no felt sense of pressure. Relax around it when feeling stuck. Ask for help or advice, as needed. Work through all the knots, thoroughly without frustration when knots prove themselves stubborn to untie. Celebrate when you are through. Soak into the taste of victory and feel how capable and powerful you are. Then, move to the next thing on the list. Something a bit more challenging, yet again, not overwhelmingly difficult. With each victory attained your self confidence increases and so does your dominion over fear and sense of helplessness. Same as weight training, use small increments to increase your strength!

Laura Mar 9, 2015 12:23pm

I have been taking yoga classes (on and off) for quite a few years now. I remember I took the first class to convince my husband that yoga is good for him – so I had heard. At that time, I did not really see myself getting any closer to yoga, or anything of that sort.
The author here describes the process i went through since that first class. Just like the author, i had doubts along the way. "Nope, not working for me," i kept thinking after the first few months of weekly yoga sessions. And i have to credit the power of yoga that gave me the strength to continue and not give up. It has slowly built a happier, healthier, more balanced and confident me. I have to therefore recognize the transformative effect of yoga that the author is describing in this article. Great read for yoga beginners!

Shannon Mar 3, 2015 7:55am

Very inspiring article!! It gives me happiness when I read a story like yours, Daniela. People are being transformed by a book, a travel, a person… or yoga. We become forever grateful to that complex intervention in our lives that help us find balance.

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Daniela Simina

Daniela Simina is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor, with international background in yoga, energy therapy, fitness, and martial arts. Her teaching is grounded in the synergy between modern science and ancient wisdom. Through her classes, books, programs and workshops, Daniela motivates and guides people toward achieving more fulfilling lives. As a yoga teacher, her quest is to help people uncover their own potential through the art and science of yoga and meditation. Daniela is the author of Anychair Yoga book, Yoga Fundamentals DVD, and Anychair Yoga DVD.