September 24 2019 – Ana Kafie
This is a loaded word for me because my entire life I have been anything but. I used to even joke that patience is certainly not my virtue. I have been practicing yoga for 6 years now and right about at the 2.5 year mark I started following a lot of Instagram yogi's. I would see them doing these awesome poses and would imitate them and get very impatient and angry with myself when I couldn't achieve what I saw. I learned very quickly (after tearing my TFCC in my right wrist and needing surgery) that yoga is more about the journey than the destination and about being safe. I wasn't stretching my wrists properly before getting into complicated arm balances and I just wanted to be a 'good yogi'. My injury led me to a 2 year set back in practicing yoga which was a very hard thing for me to come to terms with since it was something I was living and breathing. This taught me to be patient with myself and my practice knowing that rushing through things can lead to injuries. This type of patience has been leaking into the rest of my life as well including my relationship. I am by no means the most patient person but practicing mindfulness and learning to slow down (Shavasana is my hardest pose) is the most restorative practice for my mind.
- Stress/Anxiety Relief
Stress and anxiety relief can come in many forms, including physical exercise. Yoga has been exceptionally good for me because of the practice of aligning your breath with the movements which helps incorporate the meditative perspective in yoga. Because I tend to have a very over active mind, poses such as tree pose or any balancing poses really bring my mind back into the moment (or I will quite literally fall on my face if I start thinking about my dinner plans). Yoga has the ability to change your perception in each pose that you do. Each pose has its own challenges and can release endorphins and make you feel certain emotions. For example, whenever I am feeling like I am holding a lot of tension and start closing myself off, I find that any kind of back bend that opens up my heart helps alleviate a lot of these feelings, immediately bringing on a rush of emotions (this can come in a form of joy or even tears - don't be alarmed by the tears part, sometimes it is completely necessary to let something go and these poses seem to be able to trigger that for me which I love). If I am feeling ungrounded and sluggish I like doing forward folds or getting upside down to get the blood flowing to my head for a little bit. Every pose is so incredibly unique and I have learned to love them all, even the ones that challenge me the most. It takes a lot of dedication and concentration which is why you leave a yoga class feeling refreshed. I hear a lot of people say they don't like yoga because it is too slow and boring, which is what I used to say when I first started practicing. I would only attend the power classes because slower flows made me feel antsy and my mind wandered more, however now I find myself seeking some slower flow movements. It has taken me 6 years to get to that point (hence the patience part) but my recommendation to anyone feeling the same is start the way I did. Go to some power classes and slowly your mind and body will start to crave yoga in a way that you will start appreciating all of its different forms, including slower more restorative flows.
Focusing my mind and awareness into the present moment has been one of my biggest challenges within yoga. Acceptance of even the bad feelings isn't always the easiest as we are always innately as humans only seeking the positive ones. By setting an intention before every practice I have started to slowly grasp the concept of not being afraid of my own thoughts in stillness. One of my recent yoga teachers mentioned in class the other day that there are many moments in yoga that can become a teaching moment. We would pause in certain poses and ask ourselves 'is this the perfect teacher', which had a lot of depth to it. Some poses teach you to pause and be still, some teach you endurance, some strength and some even teach you to be comfortable in the uncomfortable moments. Every moment can be so incredibly special and eye opening if you open your mind to letting it in. Shavasana, like I mentioned previously, is a moment where you completely surrender your conscious mind which is incredibly difficult. I have often found myself thinking about what I need to pick up at the grocery store or what laundry I have left to do; however, I have begun to find some peaceful moments. They are few and far between, but I can promise you that the more you consciously practice surrendering yourself for 5 minutes at the end of a practice, the more your body will thank you for it.
Flexibility (Mind & Body)
Almost every time I am talking about yoga with someone who has never tried it or is hesitant, they always say to me 'but I am not flexible so I can't do it' which is ironic. Yoga isn't about being flexible so that you can touch your toes, it is about creating space and mobility in your body so that your body can function to its fullest potential mentally and physically. Believe it or not (just ask my cheerleading coach in highschool and university), I was never a super flexible person and most definitely couldn't easily touch my toes from the beginning of my yoga journey, but slowly with time, my body has opened up. Yoga can provide you with mobility in areas that you didn't even know you were holding tension in. Most people tend to carry a lot of tension in their necks and shoulders which can be relieved through stretching and creating space to help you live a better life. Yoga has also taught my mind to welcome uncomfortable and new poses and be more open to challenges. I have learned over time that it is the poses that we fear the most or that we dislike the most which can be the most restorative. It is your way of showing your mind to be flexible and open to new experiences.
Acceptance has also been a very big challenge for me since day one. Yoga teaches you to release judgement and accept every moment as a teaching moment, even in the poses which you struggle with. It has shown me to accept that this yoga of mine is a journey and that every day is completely different. Some days I get on my mat and have an extremely hard time in balancing poses, which I used to get very frustrated by. I once had a teacher who by simply mentioning that it was okay to struggle some days and excel in others. This helped me overcome the barrier of anger I would feel when I wouldn't be able to achieve what I wanted to in that class. I have started to accept that just because the person in front of me is doing a complicated arm balance, it doesn't mean that my body is able to or ready to (hence the injury before). This is a working progress as sometimes I still find myself getting angry that my body can't do what I want it to do compared to what my neighbour is doing in class, then I reel myself back in and remember that it is okay. My body is doing exactly what it needs right now, and pushing it will only lead to injury. Listen to your body, it will always tell you what it needs.
I also want to reach out a big thank you to some of the teachers that have made the biggest impact for me in my yoga journey so far and the ones that I have learned the most from. I have been loving Pure Yoga Ottawa since the first day I stepped foot in there due to the energy and genuine care they bring to each class. Kate Durie brings a spiritual light to every practice and radiates with kindness that will help guide your meditative practice as well. Brittany Bryden challenges you to try new things in every class and has an air of positivity and joy that will leave you wanting to become a regular at all of her classes. Mike Dynie has a profound way of teaching yoga that will help you connect mentally and physically with your practice the moment you step on the mat, not to mention his animated personality adds a bit of fun to every class he teaches.
Tagged: Health & Wellness