To mark International Yoga Day (Friday 21st June), my good friend Anne Sheeran (@sheerana_yoga on Instagram), who is also a yoga teacher (and works in Marketing at KIND Snacks, who I am a proud ambassador for!) having recently completing her 200 hour teacher training last year in Goa, India, wrote this beautiful article and I’m so delighted to be able to share it on my blog. Whether you’re a fellow yogi like us, considering giving it a try, or not yet converted to the practice, this article is a gorgeous read that will give you food for thought and I think bring a smile and a little perspective to your day.
21 Lessons I Have Learnt From Yoga (By Anne Sheeran)
The way we do one thing is the way we do all things.
How we approach our practice can translate to all aspects of our lives. Do we take short-cuts? How do we speak to ourselves? Is our internal monologue kind or critical? Are we frustrated with ourselves when we can’t achieve a pose? Do we make excuses for ourselves? What happens on the mat is usually an indication of what happens off the mat too.
Move the body to clear the mind.
The function of asana (moving through postures, or what we know as yoga) practice is to prepare the body for sitting for long periods in meditation. Clearing stagnant energy, creating space within the body and bringing connection between the body and mind through the breath can help us slow down the over-stimulated mind.
Everything is temporary.
Every day your body is different. Everyday your state of mind is different. Some days you will be able to push yourself further than you even thought possible and some days you might struggle in basic poses.
With this in mind; detachment is key.
Some days I can do a headstand. Some days I can’t. Some days I can do the splits. Some days I can’t. What does this mean? Can I definitely say that I have the postures in my practice? Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I have let go of the idea that it is either way. Some days it is and some days it isn’t. I am not defined by either concept.
Consistency is more powerful than intensity.
Showing up on your mat for 10 minutes a day will bring more long-term benefits than going to one high intensity class a week.
Always face the direction you want to go and follow through.
Every time I learn a new sport I have to relearn this. Skiing, surfing, hockey, etc. It seems very obvious but sometimes it can feel counter-intuitive. Send your energy through your gaze.
Asana is a gateway drug.
Several years ago when I began to practice yoga more regularly, someone told me that many yogis are introduced to the practice for exercise and stay for the spirituality. Many subconsciously begin to give up their vices; drinking, smoking, eating meat etc. Psh, that will never happen to me I thought. Well… I accidentally gave up smoking four years ago. I stopped eating meat without the intention of giving it up fully over a year ago. And every time I want to go out and get drunk I end up deciding to stop drinking because I don’t like the feeling. What has happened to me? I’m also losing make up and fast fashion to yoga as well!
However: Asana is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga, but it does not make you any less of a yogi is this is the only aspect you connect with.
Everyone’s practice looks and feels different. Everyone’s practice evolves in different ways. If you are not working towards Samadhi that is totally fine. If you don’t practice pranayama at the start of your practice who cares? Yoga is for you and don’t let anyone else tell you how you should be doing it.
From Patanjali: “all aspects of the universe are in the mind. It contains all knowledge that has existed and will exist in the future.”
Mind blown. Everything you need to know is already within.
“Those that can’t do; teach”
Through my teacher training I discovered the poses that I could teach the best are poses that I have struggled with myself. In poses that have always come naturally to me I struggle to fully understand the aspects that my students are struggling with, knowing exactly what the pose should feel like in their bodies can overlook some of the barriers they are encountering with them. Bringing this to other aspects of my life has given me a different perspective on things that do not come easily to me. Where once I would make it mean that I wasn’t good enough, I have changed my thinking to; when I finally get this I am going to know how to do it so well that I will be able to teach other people how to do it.
Nothing feels better than progression.
The best things in life are not free: they are earned.
Wearing an expensive pair of yoga pants will not make you a better yogi, but it might make you a more dedicated one.
Investing in things that make you feel good will encourage you to practice more. If you’re willing to spend €100 on a dress that you will wear once maybe consider spending €100 on a pair of pants that you will wear hundreds of times and will make you feel amazing every time you wear them.
Root to rise.
This is a cue so often used by yoga teachers and it means that you should check your foundations before you rock them. Balance is a two way street. We cannot fly without grounding down. Check your foundations and then add your flair.
From Talia Sutra on flexibility:
The opposition of flexibility is tension, which is created by fear. When we are fearful we become tense, which does not allow us to move past the place we get stuck. In order to become unstuck, take a deep breath and surrender. Use the mind to move past the fear; flexibility is as much in the mind as in the body.
Awareness is often enough.
This is a lesson I’ve learned as much through talk therapy as I have through yoga. I often get caught up in how I am going to unlearn something I have been doing wrong for so many years, but actually, awareness is usually enough.
We are conditioned for growth.
The journey will never end. It is the human condition to constantly evolve and grow. Once you’ve nailed one pose, you’ll find another to work towards. We are always students.
The less you obsess the easier it comes.
My yoga journey really began when I let go of the idea of being the best in the class, achieving complex poses, and began to show up on the mat for the feeling it gave me. The more I practiced with no goal in mind, the easier postures became for me. It is like the law of attraction. The more you obsess the less likely you are to achieve your goals. Just set your intention and chill and all will come.
Yoga is just another coping mechanism.
Albeit a far more healthy one. People who do yoga don’t do it because they are zen or able to meditate. They do it so they can learn how to bring some calm into their otherwise crazy lives. Many people come to yoga through trauma and have usually exhausted other coping mechanisms. Mine used to be drinking, smoking, calorie restriction, horoscopes (sometimes this is still one), pulling out my hair, gossiping, bitching.
Your breath is your most powerful tool for detoxification.
A yoga teacher in LA once said this in class and it has always stuck with me. There is very little that a few deep breaths can’t cure.
Yoga is working for you and with you.
Every time I step on my mat I have a different experience, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. I have learned that this all happens for a reason and there is usually a hidden lesson I learn through my experience. Yoga builds you up when you need to be built up and it humbles you when you need to be knocked down a peg or two.
You’ll never regret a yoga class.
On day 23 of my yoga teacher training my body was exhausted, my muscles were fatigued, I had one of the worst periods of my life (extreme cramping because of my super tight core) and I had mentally checked out. I went to class and literally could not do one pose. I sat there for 2 hours watching my fellow yogis flow through an incredible lesson, totally jealous, feeling like shit, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I should be pushing myself through the pain and completely deflated. I should have just stayed in bed I thought. Maybe this will be the one yoga class I actually regret going to. After savasana the teacher and teaching assistant pulled out a harmonium and began chanting. It was a chant that we had not learned in the course and it was so beautiful. Before I knew it I was weeping. There were no emotions behind my tears, I was neither happy nor sad, I was just could not stop crying. Maybe I was proud of myself for completing the course, maybe the melody of the song just got to me. Maybe the collective energy in the shala was so strong or maybe it was just because I had my period. I don’t think I’ll be able to put into words the emotions I was feeling, but it is a moment I will never forget. Dammit yoga, you’re good!
I’m so grateful to Anne for sharing this beautiful article with you guys through my blog. I would love to hear from you, the reader, if you have any thoughts from reading, or indeed, what (if you’re a yogi) yoga has taught you! Leave a comment, or find myself and Anne on Instagram (@theirishbalance and @sheerana_yoga). Happy International Yoga Day!
Ciara 🙂 x