The first yoga class I took was hard. I walked in wearing ego, confident-knowing “yoga was a piece of cake.” I soon had sweat running down my face, I kept eyeing the ceiling fan and wondering when the teacher would turn it on. I wasn’t used to breathing deeply, the heat in the room was overpowering. I was used to gym yoga, and this was nothing like it! I could barely listen to the teacher’s directions over the constant whirling of my thoughts asking, “Am I doing this right?” Then, there were the transitions between poses, I would later find out they were called vinyasas.
Everything seemed so confusing! During savasana, all I could think about was how I had messed up and everyone could see. I couldn’t wait for class to be over! Then as the teacher brought us back to consciousness I heard “wrap your arms around your knees, give yourself a big hug for all you’ve accomplished today.” “Yeah right,” I thought, “the only thing I accomplished was making a fool of myself.” Then I heard the teacher say “…for showing up and doing what you can do, each day is different – don’t focus on what you couldn’t focus on what you could do.”
I’ll never forget those words!
In that moment I realized just showing up was an accomplishment for me, just putting myself out there and trying something new was an accomplishment. From that moment on I was hooked on yoga! My mat was the one place I could be free, free to fail and succeed.
Years have passed since that day, but the message I learned was to focus on the good, not the bad. Through my daily practice, I went on to learn how to breathe through the pose, focus on accomplishments (big and small), while identifying where I still need to grow in my practice.
We tend to be our strongest critics, but the sooner we can forgive ourselves and let go, the sooner we can move on and heal. Just like a song can get stuck in our minds, so can life situations. This is what I call looping. When my thoughts go round and round, replaying what I rather forget. To stop the “loop” I’ve adopted the following practice:
I imagine a big moving box. Then, I create symbolic images to represent the events. Next, I imagine myself putting these images into the moving box, folding the flaps, and taping it shut. And finally, I picture myself walking away from the box.
When I start to think about the events again, I tell myself, “You packed that box, and walked away from it.” Each time I find my thoughts going back to the events, I simply repeat that phrase and breathe deeply. This practice has helped me to focus away from the negative and instead focus on the positive. And when I focus on the positive, I reward myself through kind words of self-praise.
Yoga has taught me that all things are temporary. Whether I’m holding hanumanasana (splits) or doing 108 sun salutations for the solstice, I have learned to breathe through the difficult, and praise myself for the accomplishments.