June 21st is both the Summer Solstice and International Yoga Day. Whether or not it was intentional that International Yoga Day coincides with the Solstice, it seems fitting. Afterall, we start many of our classes with sun salutations.
In honor of International Yoga Day, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things about yoga - both taking and teaching. Obviously, everyone gets something a little different out of yoga, even within the same class. These are simply the benefits I’ve most perceived, and I wanted to share them.
Space and time for myself. To clarify, I don’t mean that I always do yoga alone. I mean I carve out space for something that serves me. How it serves me (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, a combo of these) depends on the day, but each time I come to my mat, wherever I am, I’m making myself a priority, saying “this is my time”, and that’s something that I think so many of us do far too infrequently.
Community and friendship. This may seem opposite to point number one, but it’s not. The beauty of yoga is that often, it’s all of us carving out time for ourselves, together. But we’re all there, together, sharing in that space, that energy. Just be being there, carving out time for ourselves, we’re coming together and supporting each other carving out time for themselves. And sometimes, this community blossoms into individual friendships. And for this socially anxious/awkward introvert, finding “my people” can be hard to come by as an adult. So I value both the community and the friendships immensely.
Balance. I don’t mean physical balance, though there’s plenty of that too, and they’re not my strongest suit when it comes to yoga. But more so, I mean the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual balance. My yoga practice encompases each of these, and it helps to remind me that often, daily life can get super lopsided. We’re focused intently on one aspect (work, having enough money to pay the bills, school, whatever it may be) and really, life is about balance. Yoga helps me to consciously bring balance into my life, even if it’s just for that time I’m on the mat. More and more, though, I’m noticing it off the mat as well.
Self-Compassion. I’m often incredibly tough on myself. In addition to my type A, perfectionist type personality, I also live with anxiety and depression, which often like to emotionally beat me up. They tell me a whole host of lies about my worth, my ability, my being. Practicing yoga, and teaching yoga, has helped me to be gentler with myself when needed. Yoga reminds me that it’s ok to rest, to pause and focus on breath, to take something more restorative or supportive when needed. It reminds me that it’s enough to try my best, even if it’s not the best I’ve ever done. There’s no perfect yoga, and there’s no perfect person, and that’s all completely OK.
Boundaries. I haven’t historically been great at setting boundaries. But especially during yoga teacher training, I had to. I spent the majority of my weekends in training, along with at least two classes a week, plus studying, papers, practicing, and more. I had to learn to say no to other things, or I wouldn’t have made it through. I had to say no to plans, commitments, activities that required more energy than I had. In yoga itself, I had to say no to certain poses when my body was taxed or my sciatica twinging, or when I just mentally needed the time to rest in child’s pose. I had to learn to set boundaries in every aspect of my life, and now that teacher training is done, I’m learning that I’ve gotten slightly more comfortable with the concept. It’s an area in which I still have a way to go, but I’ve established the foundation, and that’s a great place to start.
Do any of these resonate with you? What benefits have you gained from yoga? I’m curious to hear. I love how yoga can offer us each our own unique benefits, and I Iove learning what it brings to others’.