For one reason or another, there is this misconception that you need to look a certain way in a yoga class. What people don’t understand is that yoga is about having an experience rather than looking a certain way.
I can understand that frame of mind because I still struggle sometimes with thinking my form is supposed to look like one from a picture. With yoga, we need to move into asking ourselves “how is my alignment,” “do I need to back out of this shape in order to not hurt myself,” and “how does this make me feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.” This should be our focus. Not “do I look like the teacher.” I get it, we want to make sure we’re doing things right.
Of course, another thing to be aware of in yoga is alignment. Alignment is important, but it doesn’t look the same in one person as it does in another. In fact, alignment may not even look the same within the same person at different points.
Enjoying the journey of your yoga practice is about noticing the way your body feels throughout the practice.
Notice where you feel sensations. By noticing what sensations are going on in the body, we are honoring our bodies. Our own bodies are our best teachers. The instructor does not know what’s going on in your body or how you’re feeling during a certain portion of the practice. Only you know.
Is there a particular form that just feels super yummy to your body? Is there a form you could just stay in for the duration because it feels so good? And on the other side of the coin, is there a form your body is telling you not to linger in? Is there a shape that makes you feel pain? Listen to your body. It’s your best teacher.
Enjoying the journey isn’t just about how you feel physically. It’s also about how you feel emotionally and mentally. Stay present in the practice. I know, I know. It’s hard. You have so much on your mind already before you even get on your mat. Your to-do list is never-ending, you need to make that dentist appointment, you and your spouse just had an argument, and don’t forget the grocery shopping. I get it. I’m an overthinker and it can be especially difficult for me to stay present in my practice.
There are times when I practice angry, blasting adrenaline-pumping music because I’m angry with my husband because he didn’t do the dishes. Trust me. Staying present can be a challenge, but it is so important.
You need to make that time on your mat about you, for you. Simply moving your body and staying present for your yoga journey can help improve your mood.
One way that you can do this is by inviting your dog or cat to join your practice. Yes. I said it. Invite your pet to your practice. They may not practice alongside you, but if you’re in a downward-facing dog pose and your pup or cat comes to lay underneath you, that is your opportunity to stay present and give them some pets.
Take notice of the emotions coming to the surface and the thoughts crossing your mind during your practice. Breathe through them. Exhale and let them go. I know it can be hard. Especially when those emotions are tough emotions. Breathe. Just Breathe. Slow. Deep. Breaths.
Let’s also look at this from another perspective. There are other times when enjoying the journey means being vulnerable. Vulnerable with God, vulnerable with yourself. Finding that vulnerability with God invites freedom.
Vulnerability, with Christ especially, invites healing. The healing brought about can help you more fully enjoy your journey on or off of the mat. On the mat, there are a few times in which I feel vulnerable. When God touches me and speaks to my heart, cracking it wide open, is when I feel the most vulnerable.
Is there something specific that makes you feel vulnerable? If so, figure out a way to bring the essence of that onto the mat. Bring all the rawness, vulnerability, and openness to the mat and before God. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to find healing and freedom in your journey. Just maybe, within that process, you’ll begin to enjoy the journey.
Enjoying the journey means also enjoying the lessons you learn on the mat. What you enjoy, what you don’t need to do, what needs to be worked on. So go ahead and enjoy your journey on the mat.
I dare you.