Friday Field Trip: Lessons from Yoga

Friday, January 23, 2015

For Christmas, Stephen got me an unlimited monthly pass for yoga at The Studio in Madison. This is a very good gift! Especially in January (when gyms are packed and it's usually unbearably freezing out.) It's also on my 101 in 1001 list to do yoga 20 times in a month and can I just take a second to say WTF WAS I THINKING WHEN I RANDOMLY PICKED THE NUMBER 20?! I'm pretty sure I've done yoga 20 times IN 26 YEARS before this month (see detailed love/hate relationship here), but now I've done it 11 times so far in January (yes, I'm a little behind, but I do have until February 2.) All that to say: be ye not so stupid when setting arbitrary fitness goals.

There's tea in the waiting room before & after class.
Still, my experience with my month of yogi-hood has been a positive one! The only bad part is now I'm worried about hitting my goal, and find myself focusing on metrics rather than enjoying my yoga practice itself. So I would encourage you to "hit the mat" if you get a chance, just don't make it about counting classes, make it about taking time for yourself to help your mind and body.

I thought I'd share today a couple memorable gems from my yoga instructors today.

"You can't force your body to relax, but you can invite it to." 

I've had trouble sleeping lately (I think it has to do with too much screen time before bed), and I've found when I get worked up about not falling asleep right away, it only makes things worse. That's when I remember this quote, and focus on relaxing different parts of my body and my breath* and it can really help me fall asleep.

*Breath is very important in yoga. If yoga places had liquor licenses, I'd propose drinking every time an instructor says breath.

"Shed the negative dialogue."

One of my teachers is really into this concept and at first it sounds cliché but I actually really like it.

First off, it's very applicable during yoga because a lot of times I'll think "I can't wait to get out of this stupid pose." or "Ugh, we're going to have to do this all again on the other foot!" or "For the love of God, can we just have a single class WITHOUT doing pigeon?" These example thoughts are coming a little too easily.

Then, there's life in general, when it's so easy to have a sound track of negative thoughts playing in the back of your mind, which can be, of course, limiting. But sometimes we get so used to them we're practically immune to the self-negativity -- and shedding those thoughts is so freeing.
the waiting room over looks a (now frozen) Lake Monona
I like that she doesn't say "Stop thinking negatively!" which can come off as abrasive, and lead to further rounds of self-criticism, e.g. "Oh my gosh I can't believe I'm thinking that, I'm such an awful person for having that thought."  Rather, "Shed the negative dialogue." Accept that negative dialogue will likely be there, and just cue Elsa and Let. It. Go.

So, there you have it, my friends, one of the least-likely people to say "OM" in the entire world learning something from yoga. :) Physically, it also has made me pretty sore (teacher-dependent) on days. Overall, I'm really enjoying the mental aspects more than I anticipated of practicing regularly. Wishing you a happy weekend! Namaste, homies.

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