11 Life Lessons I Learned From Yoga

by Stephanie on July 28, 2014

This is my published article from one of my favorite sites, RebelleSociety.com.

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1. There is great peace in the present moment.
In the past, there was a wish to rewrite it, which is impossible. In the future, there can lie fear. Right now, right here in the present moment, I am content, grateful and full of joy. Yoga taught me to dwell in that divine space.

2. Each moment we begin again.
The Buddhist in me learned about the beginner’s mind, and my inner Yogini moved this knowledge into my heart, off the mat, and into the world. I apply that thirst for expansion again and again during each day. I know I have a choice. I am in awe of the physical body every day, not taking it for granted.

3. It’s not about the pose.
There were no mirrors in Yoga studios when I first starting taking classes and I like the studios that still honor this. Yoga has taught me to appreciate that I can use the breath and my focus to be grounded and present even if I’m sitting in traffic.
It has taught me that I can move, but that it’s not a competition. Yoga taught me not to look around the room. Whether or not I do Scorpion pose, I am doing Yoga. I live Yoga.

4. Yoga taught me how to be still.
I have always been very active. I learned that the whole reason to do Yoga was to reach Savasana. It was a full 20 minutes at the end of class. No music. Just me. It was hard at first but that changed very quickly. I yearn for Savasana now.
It breaks my heart that many studios only have five minutes at the end of class. I think they are shortchanging people.

5. It’s healthy to put yourself first.
Taking the time for self-care is healthy. The culture I grew up in taught me to put everyone else’s needs before my own. That was wrong.
Yoga taught me self-love.

6. Love is more powerful than fear.
Whether it is trying a new pose or learning to ask for what you want and need, the practice is about abundance and self-love. Scarcity is toxic. Fear is crippling. You can choose love over fear. Love is expansive and free.

7. Be comfortable in your own skin.
Yoga taught me how to appreciate my body. I can move easily. I am strong. I feel comfortable in front of the mirror naked. I honor and respect the great gift of a healthy body, mind and spirit, appreciating and taking care of my unique soul and voice.

8. There is no right way.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years. Find a teacher you like; it is kind of like dating. You may have to put some effort into finding the one you like. Don’t limit yourself to any one style. I have my favorites, but it is all Yoga. Try different teachers. Try different styles.
Discern for yourself what works for you. Don’t take it or yourself too seriously. It is a joy to do Yoga. If you do not feel the joy, try another teacher, studio, class or style.

9. Set an intention.
Daily positive affirmations work. Attainable goals are powerful. The Universe responds to action. What you focus on, you become.

What are you focusing on? Are there toxic people in your life? Do you have a daily spiritual connection to a higher power? Do you have a plan? How do your desires make you feel?

This self-inquiry is at the heart of a daily Yoga practice.

10. You get out what you put in.
Only you know what you need to do to challenge yourself. A teacher can be a great guide, but Yoga will teach you to listen to that small voice inside of you — your intuition. Trust it. Act on the wisdom that is inherently inside of you.

11. Change is good.
Every day it is important to show up on your mat ready to grow. After my recent knee surgery, it was like starting again on Day One. That is okay. Day One changed my life and reminded me that every day I show up it is like Day One.

I’m lucky that a bad back got me to Yoga. This pain was my greatest gift because I went to Yoga and felt better. I kept going. 34 years later, it has been one of the greatest loves of my life and certainly the greatest ride of my life.

There are many more things Yoga has taught me, but 11 seemed like the right number today. I hope your day includes some Yoga.

What has yoga taught you? or what do you hope it will?

Namaste ~ Stephanie

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Top 10 Yoga Benefits + One That We All Want

by Stephanie on July 15, 2014

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A strong and flexible body, glowing beautiful skin, peaceful mind, good health – whatever you may be looking for, yoga can help you achieve that. However, very often, yoga is only partially understood as being limited to asanas (yoga poses). As such, its benefits are only perceived to be at the body level and we fail to realize the immense benefits yoga offers in uniting the body, mind and breath. When you are in harmony, the journey through life is calmer, happier and more fulfilling.

“Asana is a limited definition of yoga. Yoga is about inquiry into the soul” ~ Saul David Raye

I was very lucky to take an all day workshop with Saul David Raye at Yoga Journal LIVE in San Diego last weekend. I was very impressed with his wisdom and capacity to offer so much in so little time.

I put together the following list for people who may not have practiced yoga before. That is my dharma. To teach, to inspire, to share and to love. I am grateful for the gift of being immersed in Bhakti Yoga yesterday and for the opportunity to learn from Saul David Raye.

The benefits of yoga are felt in a profound yet subtle manner. There are many more benefits, but here are a top 10 list of benefits of regular yoga practice:

1. All-round fitness. You are truly healthy when you are not just physically fit but also mentally and emotionally balanced. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar puts it, “Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.” This is where yoga helps: postures, pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation are a holistic fitness package.

2. Healthy Weight. What some people try yoga for now that it has become more mainstream is to lose weight, but I believe what we really want is to feel our best! Yoga benefits here too. Sure, you will loose weight if that is your goal, but that should not be your main focus for doing yoga. Moreover, with regular practice, we tend to become more sensitive to the kind of food our body asks for and when. This can also help keep a check on weight.

3. Stress relief. A few minutes of yoga during the day can be a great way to get rid of stress that accumulates daily – in both the body and mind. Yoga postures, pranayama and meditation are effective techniques to release stress.

4. Inner peace. We all love to visit peaceful, serene spots, rich in natural beauty. Little do we realize that peace can be found right within us and we can take a mini-vacation to experience this any time of the day! Benefit from a small holiday every day with yoga and meditation. Yoga is also one of the best ways to dissolve the ego with love.

5. Improved immunity. Our system is a seamless blend of the body, mind and spirit. An irregularity in the body affects the mind and similarly unpleasantness or restlessness in the mind can manifest as an ailment in the body. Yoga poses massage organs and strengthen muscles; breathing techniques and meditation release stress and improve immunity.

6. Living with greater awareness. The mind is constantly involved in activity – swinging from the past to the future – but never staying in the present. By simply being aware of this tendency of the mind, we can actually save ourselves from getting stressed or worked up and relax the mind. Yoga and pranayama help create that awareness and bring the mind back to the present moment, where it can stay happy and focused.

7. Better relationships. Yoga can even help improve your relationship with your spouse, parents, friends or loved ones! A mind that is relaxed, happy and contented is better able to deal with sensitive relationship matters. Yoga and meditation work on keeping the mind happy and peaceful; benefit from the strengthened special bond you share with people close to you.

8. Increased energy. Do you feel completely drained out by the end of the day? Shuttling between multiple tasks through the day can sometimes be quite exhausting. We have been conditioned in our culture to do rather than be. A few minutes of yoga everyday provides the secret to feeling fresh and energetic even after a long day.

9. Better flexibility & posture. You only need to include yoga in your daily routine to benefit from a body that is strong, supple and flexible. Regular yoga practice stretches and tones the body muscles and also makes them strong. It also helps improve your body posture when you stand, sit, sleep or walk.

10. Better intuition. Yoga and meditation have the power to improve your intuitive ability so that you effortlessly realize what needs to be done, when and how, to yield positive results. It works. You only need to experience it yourself.

11. Spontaneous Joy. There is a deep longing in our heart for love. Bhakti yoga helps you tap into the nature of what is always there – to be with source. There is no place we need to hide from God (Even when we struggle).

Consider setting the following intention the next time you step on your yoga mat:

May the deeper meanings of the teachings be revealed

Remember, yoga is a continuous process. So keep practicing! The deeper you move into your yoga practice, the more profound are its benefits.

I would love to know what YOUR top reasons are for doing yoga?

Namaste ~ Stephanie

 

Stephanie Spence and Saul David Raye

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