15 Cool Things Yoga has Taught Me. (Hint: None of them are Handstand.)

For those of us who practice yoga, isn’t it often difficult to explain how transformative a yoga practice can be?

Yoga provides many physical benefits, such as improved balance, strength and flexibility. However, there are also so many wonderful lessons to learn through yoga.

1. To Love My Body. Today we are bombarded with images of perfection through advertising and social media, and it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we should look a certain way. But the more I practice yoga, the more I appreciate my body for the way it moves, rather than the way it looks. I am thankful for its strength and flexibility, and for its absolute magnificence in the way it functions. Studying anatomy has fascinated me, and it’s also made me extremely appreciative of the way my own body moves, especially in my 40s.

2. To Be Patient. In today’s society, we do not really have to be patient. If we want to buy something, we can order it online and have it delivered the same day. We can talk with people instantaneously and order our coffee on our phones, so we don’t have to wait in line So, I feel like I have become less patient as I get older, but yoga has taught me that good things come to those who wait. More challenging poses seemed elusive when I started yoga, but with regular practice and perseverance, I have been able to learn poses that once seemed impossible.

3. To Be Open to New Things. When I took my first yoga class, I had no idea what to expect and was a little nervous, but I was instantly hooked once I realized the movement was similar to dance and gymnastics, which I had done as a kid. Had I been too scared to take the class, I would have never realized how much I loved it. In addition, I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 10 years, and I still learn something new in most classes, which keeps me inspired to learn new things in everyday life.

4. To Not Compare Myself to Others. I’m not going to lie, this is a hard one. I can honestly say that I do not compare myself to other people when I take yoga classes anymore. Believe me, I used to feel very inadequate, especially in more difficult classes. I would feel like I did not belong or have a right to be there, but I have realized that each of us has our own journey. Some of us are dealing with injuries, and some of us have more time to practice than others. So I am able to focus on my practice and movement without being distracted by watching other people. And if I do somehow get distracted and see someone else doing something really challenging, I am inspired by their dedication instead of being jealous.

5. To Listen. When I first started yoga, I had to watch the instructor intently because the poses and terms were new to me. But over time, I have been able to move through my practice by listening to the teacher’s cues; sometimes I even close my eyes to help myself focus. This translates outside the classroom and helps me be a better listener to my friends, family and husband.

6. To Slow Down. Since I started teaching yoga, I have been able to watch a lot of people practice, and my own practice has improved from what they have taught me. I noticed that people who move slowly are incredibly strong and have good alignment, so in my own practice, I started focusing on taking the entire breath for each movement and have noticed a change in my practice. This has also helped me outside of yoga. I am able to stop and smell the roses, instead of running from place to place. I allow myself time to relax without feeling that I must always be doing something.

7. To Be Present. For the longest time, I could not articulate to other people why I loved yoga—but then I had a teacher talk about being present, and it clicked for me. When I am on my mat, I am only thinking about what I am doing and nothing else. Each pose requires focus and concentration that forces me to be present. This is not easy for me outside of yoga. As a very organized planner, I usually get consumed about something in the future. Being present is still a challenge for me, but I am much more aware of my ability to get caught up in future events and am able to bring myself back to the present moment. This has helped me better manage my stress and realize I can plan for the future but cannot control it.

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