When you practice yoga consistently and diligently for more than a week, your experience of self starts to shift.
You might not get immediate resolution with the troubles in your life, but you will refresh your perspective. Sometimes, that’s all you need to let things go.
But what if you’re in a good place, feeling happy or content, and you start practicing yoga every day for an hour or more?
I upped my own personal practice by taking a 30-day yoga challenge with Kindness Yoga, a local studio in Denver. So far, I’ve done all 11 days in a row with just as many different styles, from upbeat vinyasa to restorative.
Five days in, I told a yogini friend that I was feeling unsettled. Ever the intuitive, she said, “You’ve been doing so much yoga, maybe things are starting to come up.”
What comes up on the mat
And they were, of course. I hadn’t even considered this because I was so enamored with the after-class euphoria that lasts as long as you can stay present with it.
What’s surfacing from my body is nothing new. It’s the same themes that have courted me since I was a little girl: freedom, spiritual connection, being heard. Except now they are demanding even more attention.
Yoga stirs up the comfortable identity you’ve been projecting and peels back why you even want/need that identity in the first place.
Without even knowing, you’re bit-by-bit letting go. Therein lives freedom, spiritual connection, being heard on the deepest level.
To honor and inspire you in your yoga journey, I’m sharing 10 changes you didn’t know you were making when you dedicate yourself to a daily yoga practice. Being aware of these changes speeds up your awareness, which leads to a cascade of ease in your life.
1. You start to realize, “I did the best I could.” For everything — that hour on the yoga mat, that difficult conversation, that painful time in your past you can’t let go. You did the best you could.
2. You’re no longer content to let a day pass without stretching into your physical limits. You crave movement of your body. This momentum extends far beyond your yoga mat.
3. You begin to notice what’s really important. Your intentions for your practice surface organically. Often, they’re intentions that last for days and months. Pay attention to these because this is where your life’s energy is heading.
4. You’re stronger, physically, than you thought. Whether you start from ground zero or are already relatively fit, yoga asana will challenge your assumptions about strength. Sooner than you think, you’ll be lifting one leg for Eka Pada Chaturanga Dandasana… or at the least, attempting it.
5. You’re stronger, mentally, than you thought. You can hold side plank, even though your whole body is fatigued, for one more breath. Your mind swoops in and fortifies parts of your body to make it happen.
6. Which brings you to the realization: The body follows the mind. Your habits and self-talk and judgments manifest in what is possible for yourself. Whatever you think, you can become. Whatever you think, you can do.
7. You discover that comparison is the thief of self. I thought that Mike Dooley of TUT put it best this week, “Comparisons are odious, because they presume all other things are equal – which is never the case.”
8. You’re practicing hope. Many of us come to the mat because we’re fed up with some way of being. For me initially, it was depression. Hope is an atrophied muscle that grows stronger each time we recognize our worth through yoga.
9. You listen to what your breath is telling you. Our bodies respond physically to stress and discomfort, but we’re often too occupied in our minds to notice. The more you practice pranayama during your yoga practice, the more likely it is you’ll shift course before your off-the-mat stressors derail you.
10. You get curious about what’s possible. Incrementally, your body and mind get used to a new way of showing up in the world — one that includes better posture and a calmer mind. You might find yourself starting to look forward to asking, “What’s next?”
Try it: Reclining Bound Angle Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana, with Deep Breathing Pranayama
Practice the letting go of your day, week, month or year with Reclining Bound Angle Pose. This can feel quite intense in the hips, so prop as necessary (noted in step 2). A word of caution for animal lovers: Before trying the pranayama, remove the little 8 lbs dog from your chest (unless you like a challenge!).
- Lie on your back, knees to ceiling. Lift your hips slightly up, tilt your pelvis up and settle back down on the mat.
- Bring your heels together and soften the knees wide. If your hips are very open today, bring the heels closer to your pelvis. If the knees are lifted high, settle the feet farther away from your pelvis. If you experience pain in the hips, or want to practice a more restorative version, prop pillows or blankets underneath your knees.
- In this pose, the traditional arm variation is to rest your arms 45 degrees away from the body. However, we’ll practice a simple pranayama with this pose. Bring one hand to your heart and the other to your abdomen.
- Close your eyes. Inhale and lift the hand on your abdomen, ballooning the breath into that space. Exhale and empty completely. Do this two more times, softening the navel.
- Now inhale and lift the hand on your heart, expanding the ribs up and out. Exhale and empty completely from this space. Take this round twice more.
- Combine the two: Inhale from the abdomen, then the heart; exhale from the heart, then the abdomen. Stay for six cycles of deep breath.
- To come out of the pose, release the hands and bring them to the outsides of the thighs. Inhale and press the knees back together. Exhale and roll onto the side of your choosing. Press yourself slowly back up to seated.