I’ve been through a slew of non-optimal (that’s yogic for ‘failed’ or ‘bad’) relationships, so when I finally stumbled across one that fit (at 39 years old), I was blown away by the expectations this crush exceeded. Had I made a vision board of my “dream guy,” I would have missed out on the most endearing and adorable traits that he has to offer. Those gifts weren’t even on my “dream guy” radar. Simply put, had I been in charge, I would have sold myself short.
I compare this anecdote with my yoga practice. On any given day, the universe knows better than I do what’s in my best interests; when I show up for practice, or for life, free of expectations and open to receive what arrives, then the long-term results surpass the instant gratification of my often myopic desires.
Looking back on how far I’ve come since I first stepped barefoot onto this path over a decade ago, I realize how getting out of the driver’s seat and letting life unfold has benefitted me in every possible way.
Here are 4 ways yoga has unexpectedly altered my life:
1. Yoga has summoned levels of invention and creativity that I didn’t know I had. I’ve turned stair banisters into stretching posts, old knee socks into yoga straps, yoga mats into anti-skid rugs, hardcover books into yoga blocks, and more. All in the name of stretching.
2. I’m a better mom (to my furry kids). My dogs provide an excellent measure of my spiritual condition. Once upon a time, when Roxane stopped to do her business in the middle of a busy street, adoption came to mind. Today I take a deep breath and smile. As it turns out, how you treat animals mirrors how you interact with people! Taking a ‘time out’ when needed has done wonders for my social relations.
3. I’m more sensitive. This isn’t always a good thing. In some ways it’s contributed to a lack of tolerability: loud music is noise pollution, crowds trigger claustrophobia, and I’ll do anything to limit city driving. On the positive side, small observations invoke awe and gratification: a single dandelion in a field, a bird perched on the windowsill, the sound of the breeze in the trees. Things that once went unnoticed are now the high point of my day.
4. Yoga connects me to a power greater than myself, whom I call God. This relationship brings solace when I’m sad, peace of mind when I’m scared, yoga postures when I’m stiff, and deep breathing techniques when I’m stressed. It doesn’t prevent life’s struggles from happening, but it sure makes tolerating them easier when they do. Yoga is the ultimate coping mechanism.
The take-home lesson is this: when I come to the mat intent on ‘working out,’ I leave feeling irritable, wound-up, or unrested. Moving through the asanas is mechanical, half-hearted, unfocused, and empty of the sanctity that otherwise lights up the flow of postures. Conversely, if I approach my practice with an open mind, tuned into my mind-body needs at that moment (which just might be 60 minutes of Power Yoga!), the practice gushes with gratitude and energy, or, sometimes, contentment and rest. “Handing it over” both in life and on the mat—empties my hands and clears my mind to receive something even better.
In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”