My first yoga class echoed with laughter as a friend and I twisted our bodies into awkward knots. We were young, at a gym to get a workout, and paid no attention to the meditative or relaxation parts of the class. A bit older, I lay on my mat in a library basement, no longer acting silly, but reciting my grocery list in my head while the instructor talked about mindfulness. I joked about it with the neighbour who went to class with me, and she said she found the lessons from Lotus, the instructor, profound. I started paying attention… and had glimmers of insights, but it was another decade before I was ready to truly appreciate the spiritual wisdom my teachers were offering.
Now, I carry learnings from yoga instructors through all parts of my life, literally with each breath (and I just read a post by Val Boyko reminding us to breathe). Here are a few of the most impactful:
“Savour what’s happening”
This is from a video (Yoga Mind and Body) that I did from a VHS tape for years. I think of it as an introductory link from the physical to mental. I started not just noticing how a pose or movement felt, but also enjoying it, savouring all the sensations. I often repeat the phrase to myself when I’m doing something new or different. It’s a pretty good mantra for life, right? Savour what’s happening.
“Commit to stillness”
I think I gasped out loud when the instructor said this in a yin class. Her immediate meaning was, let your body stay still in this pose. In my heart I knew it meant so much more: There is deep power in simply stopping and being still. Anywhere, anytime. I commit to stillness many times a day, and as an overall approach to life.
“When this feels complete to you”
What a concept! Let my own body, and my own mind tell me when something is complete. It may be a yoga pose, a meal, a relationship, emotions, a walk, a piece I’m writing in my journal, a dance session in the living room, or adding rosemary to my famous focaccia. I simply notice if it feels complete to me – no rationalizing or angst, it simply is ready to be done or it isn’t.
“Wait for your body to let you in”
This is also from the video linked above. In physical terms, this helps me refrain from pushing too hard. I stretch to the point where I can savour the sensation, then I wait (in stillness… see how this all fits together?!), my body starts to let me stretch a bit further, and I hold that until it feels complete. Mentally, it helps me avoid rushing my emotions or thoughts – things take the time they take, and my body, my heart, will let me in deeper when the time is ripe.
“Feel the whole earth under you, supporting you”
I heard this in a pregnancy yoga video, and – let’s blame it on hormones – cried out loud at the feeling that all of mother nature was holding me up (honestly, at 200+ lbs I was tired of fighting gravity). When I do outdoor yoga in the summer, I feel a special joy with this thought. It also linked later for me to the buddhist idea of interconnectedness – that there are 7 billion humans here, all linked, all supporting and supported by each other.
Like the way my yoga practice shapes my body, these words of wisdom shape my inner world every day. I am forever grateful to all the yoga teachers I’ve had, and hope that the ones who met me early in my journey forgave my irreverence. I expect they knew that their words would ripen in my heart and that I’d see their wisdom when I was ready 😊