Today a student shared that her friend had first invited her to yoga because it helps to bend and not break. My favorite part of this analogy is that while it sounds like she was sharing something about being physically bendy. This makes me giggle because this is a common misconception. What she actually meant was completely different! In my own experience with my practice, it took me a very long time to recognize that the benefits were not just physical. In fact, the physical benefits don’t even compare to the emotional and spiritual.
Okay, so let’s back up a few decades, I remember my first yoga class quite well. A friend had invited me to take a class with her, I didn’t really know what to expect which in hindsight was perfect. We arrived and got settled in on our mats awaiting instruction. Over the next hour, we were lead through movement and often reminded to breathe. After the class, we went for a cup of tea and continued on with our day. It was like a normal day, where nothing extraordinary happened. Little did I know the impact this first class would eventually have. Over the next 20 years, I would take classes when I could, not even really knowing what I was up to. But I found that I enjoyed it, so why stop.
What it took me for me to see clearly
What lead up to my burn out is a long story, so let me share the cliff notes version. In my previous career, I was a trainer and coach for over 25 years in the corporate world leading large teams across Canada and the US. I was working up to 80 hours a week, I also ran a business, I’m a mom of two, married, and an avid volunteer giving over 1200 hours of my time to my community each year. Sound like a lot? It is crazy to me now that I didn’t see the trajectory that I was on.
My burnout seemed to come at me slowly and then all at once. I went from being tired to exhausted. From having aches and pains to hours of agony. From feeling in control of anything to feeling out of control of everything. It is there that the most impactful yoga class of my life occurred.
The class that changed everything
It’s Thursday and I’ve brought a trainee to a yoga class with me after work. On the way there we are chatting and she says she hasn’t done yoga before. She asks me a question that sets in motion the events that literally changed my life. She said, “why do you love yoga?” For the next few moments, I find myself without words and pondering the question I had never stopped to ask myself. Why do I love yoga? Eventually, I rattle off things like, I get to just follow along and I always feel good after the class.
We arrive and get settled on our mats. I’ve been to this class and this teacher dozens of times before. I then notice that my mind is still pondering her question. Why do I love yoga? The class starts and I try to direct my attention to the instructor and her cues. As I listen I find myself experiencing each pose and each breath differently than ever before. So I leaned in really looking to discover what she was inviting.
Then as we are holding triangle pose a wave hits me. I love yoga because no one expects anything of me, I can be me. I simply feel what is there to be felt without judgment. There is a sense of freedom from the would have, could have, and shoulds of life. All of a sudden I found myself just sitting there crying. Not some pretty Hollywood cry, but a snot running ugly cry because I had finally realized WHY I went to yoga. My mat was a safe place, I could be me without a to-do list, without judgment, without giving everything I had and more to others and I could breathe.
When I look back I finally found what was so well articulated by my student. Such a simple statement that says it all. Through my yoga practice;
- I can feel emotions without them overtaking me
- I’m able to observe experiences without judgment
- I am present and mindful in my life
- I’m able to feel discomfort and support myself through it
- I am able to breathe fully with ease
- I connect with my inner strength and resilience in a way that brings out the best of me
And most importantly, I am able to bend so that I don’t break.
Want to know more?
Here are some other posts that share my story and what I’ve learned along the way