as featured on Sunwarrior.com:
You don’t have to be good at yoga to learn from it. Grace Van Berkum shares the lessons she’s picked up in her practice of yoga.
I am not the most flexible yogi. I am not the strongest. I am not the most acrobatic. This doesn’t mean I can’t do yoga. It doesn’t mean I can’t practice yoga on my mat or off it. And the same goes for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re flexible or not, just start where you are and work with your body, not against it. We were all beginners once! Yoga, just like life, is about the journey, not the destination. Every time you move and practice is an opportunity to expand into your own healing, power, and love. Yoga is an internal practice and process, so simply accept and embrace your limitations, breathe deep, let go of your judgments, and melt into yourself. The more we can relax our bodies, the more we relax our minds. Yoga will change you, but only if you let it. Benefits, but Not Reasons, for Doing Yoga: The main reason I do yoga isn’t for flexibility (although becoming more flexible is definitely wonderful and makes me feel and move better in my body). The main reason I do yoga isn’t for for strength (although feeling strong in my body is the best feeling and looking strong ain’t too shabby either). I don’t practice yoga for a workout (although I do love to sweat). The main reason I do yoga isn’t to increase energy in my body (although I love how yoga stimulates the energy centers and circulation in my body and I always feel amazing after a session). The main reason I do yoga isn’t to detoxify my body (although I love how yoga poses stimulate the internal organs, increase circulation, and help to bring balance within the body). I don’t do yoga because it’s trendy (although I do love cool yoga wear). These are all amazing by-products of a consistent asana practice. I appreciate them and am so grateful for this practice that allows my body to function optimally. I also appreciate a practice that keeps my spine straight, stable, and strong and protects my back from pain as I mature. Having suffered a number of spinal injuries in my lifetime, my yoga practice is an opportunity for me to release and prevent pain. After all, without a healthy spine, our quality of day-to-day life suffers. Life sucks with back pain. Anyone who’s suffered from a back injury knows this.
The Main Reason I Practice Yoga The main reason I practice yoga is for mind control. Yes, mind control. Moving my body with flowing precision while staying connected to my breath on my yoga mat translates to more ease and less suffering from the perceptions of my daily life. The more I train my mind to stay present in the moment with my movement and breath, instead of going beyond the moment into the future or past, which translates to anxiety or depression, the more I am able to apply this acquired power of “just being” in my moments throughout the day. This means more peace, less stress, and more decisions based on the guidance of my heart and intuition. These decisions serve me and my life best, rather than ones based on stressful reactions or the influence of others—decisions that don’t necessarily serve me and my future. In a nutshell, yoga helps me harness the power of my mind so I can navigate my life with more ease and love. Yoga helps me be the driver on my journey through life. Yoga is about connecting to mind, body, and spirit, and for me, that means connecting to my powerful love source: who I am without the limitations and self-imposed judgments based on my past programming. Yoga is about raising the bar—the life bar. My yoga includes compassion, love, forgiveness, and honesty. For me, yoga is about working on releasing anything and everything that stands in the way of living my best life possible. This means constantly being aware of my choices and the consequences of my choices. It means digging deeper and always asking myself why. It means always asking what my motive or intention is; are my actions fear or love based? It means constantly unraveling my thoughts and actions to get to the truth of every single thing I do.
Yoga reveals me to myself. Yoga connects me to the real me. My real yoga happens every second of the day, even after I leave my yoga mat. How Yoga Influences What I Eat What I choose to eat is my yoga. Am I connected to my food choices and how they affect my body? Do my food choices affect the planet in a positive or negative way? To me, eating an animal or anything that comes from an animal that has been abused or misused for mass production is not yoga. To me, eating foods that are not ethically produced or raised is not yoga. Every time I eat is an opportunity for me to practice yoga with my choices of foods, taking into consideration where it comes from and how it affects my body, weight, energy levels, and health. The way I eat is also an opportunity to practice my yoga. Do I connect to my food; do I eat slowly; do I eat just enough? Or do I eat fast, not chew my food thoroughly, do many things at once while eating, and overeat? Eating in a way that serves my body, my health, and the planet is yoga to me.
Yoga and the Way I Treat Others My relations with people, especially people who have wronged or angered me, is an opportunity for me to practice my yoga. How do I react? Am I vengeful? Do I freak out? Do I handle it with honesty, respect, maturity, compassion, and empathy? How I handle the situation is yoga for me. Standing in line at the grocery store, driving in heavy traffic, missing my flight, being disappointed by something or someone—these are all opportunities for me to practice my true yoga. Can I connect to my breath; can I breathe into my stillness; can I be patient; can I choose love over fear? Yes, I can. I just have to practice and stay committed to understanding my actions and where my fears come from. What is Yoga to You? What I once thought of as a boring flexibility workout (it’s true!), I now see as a way of life—a lifestyle, a way of seeing, feeling, and processing, an approach to living with peace and love. I gave yoga a chance and it changed me. It has become the path to unravelling my greatness—your greatness—because we are all connected. It is the path to removing your limitations. Your practice on the mat is just a way of revealing what’s holding you back from shining the brightest you can, not only for yourself, but for others, too. By using the body and our breath, we realize where our minds are holding us back. We have the power to take control of our minds and thoughts. It takes a daily commitment and desire to change, but it can be done. Open your mind. Open your heart. Yoga reveals you to yourself. And this is how we begin to move in the direction we want to go.Yoga is about living life with awareness, choosing wisely, being compassionate, and being aware of the consequences to my choices. Learning from mistakes and growing instead of being stuck in pain. Knowing that I am not my negativity, weaknesses, and shortcomings—these are the results of my programming as a child, what I’ve learned and absorbed, but they’re not really me. It is my job to unravel them, to unravel the crap out of them! Yoga is a way for me to be free from me! It is my duty to unravel my greatness. It is your duty to unravel your greatness! My true yoga is not really about the mat stuff, it’s about what happens after I leave the mat. Yoga is about waking up to your life. Yoga is about connecting to the real you.