I saw this on Instagram a few weeks ago and it made me smile. Because for me, yoga has done exactly that. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d end up quitting my career in marketing, my corporate career-minded achievement-driven self would have laughed and said ‘no way!’ Because at that time, I thought that working my way up the corporate ladder was what I was supposed to do; that somehow my hard work and achievement in an office was my only means of fulfilment and that would one day make me happy. Accepting the non-stop craziness, the stress and the exhaustion, I somehow thought that was how my life was meant to be.
And then I stumbled upon yoga and started to realise that there was a different, more balanced way to approach life. The mental space that my yoga practice gave me enabled me to understand myself a bit more, to question all the pressure and constraints that I had put upon myself, and to realise that I didn’t need to be defined by the seniority of my job title. I started let go – physically, mentally and emotionally. And with that came an understanding that all I had been attached too – achievement, success, status, salary – actually meant nothing. And as a result, my life has become more spacious, and from that space so many other doors have opened.
But the change that yoga brings doesn’t need to be as drastic as quitting your job. I’ve seen it improve people’s lives in subtle but beautifully significant ways. It might be that it helps you to become more mobile, so that you can spend longer on your hands and knees gardening or not feel so stiff the day after a run or simply be able to hang out the washing without any discomfort. It might help to relieve pain that you’ve been struggling with for years, or give you the strength and confidence in your body to take up a sport that you never thought you could. It might be the thing that helps you to bring your baby into the world with a greater sense of calm and ease.
It might change your life because – for the first time in years - it gives you ‘you time’ where you don’t have to speak to anyone, think about anything, or be anyone but your pure raw beautiful self – even if it’s just for an hour a week, it can bring you back to who you truly are. It might help you to let go of the stress caused by your daily job. Or, the routine of your practice might help you to get out of bed in the morning or sleep better at night. It simply might just be the only thing that reminds you to stop for a moment and breathe.
Through meditation, pranayama (breath work) and asana (physical postures), yoga can give you the space to explore your body and mind, and to drop into the present moment. When you start to move with awareness, observing how the body is feeling and being present with what’s happening inside of you, you have the opportunity to be conscious of your feelings, of your own thought patterns and of your inner dialogue, and to acknowledge this without judgement. You can begin to understand the noise in your head and the way your mind works and start to question whether the stories and the thought patterns serve you or not. With that there comes a sense of clarity and surrender, and the freedom to start letting go.
When you’re on your mat, there’s no running away. It’s just you – in your body and with your mind. And, if you drop into the present moment and face what is there for you in that moment, the beautiful thing is that with that surrender there’s the possibility of finding a softness, a sense of self-acceptance and of self-compassion. You can start to unpeel the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart and make peace with who you are.
Perhaps then you can give yourself the permission to accept, and simply be. In the words of Anne Lamott – ‘We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvellously who we were born to be’.
And that self-acceptance can be empowering. It can change your life.