I will never forget my first yoga class. Despite being a flexible, physically fit woman and having naturally put my body through yogic postures for most of my childhood and young adult life, the day I stepped onto the mat as a student, my perception of yoga was challenged and ultimately changed.
“Relax, it’s just yoga!” – Heart Inspired by my very favorite Yoga Instructor, Meggan Riley
I thought it was a practice to gain more flexibility, more strength, more balance. I thought everything would benefit my physical acuity – which is a common misconception for many beginners. What I didn’t realize right off the bat, however, is that the version of me that shows up on the mat as a student is no different from the version of me that is present in all other areas of my life. What happens on the mat is a direct reflection of what happens in my world.
Blessed as I am, I caught on quickly. My practice is not just for my physical body. It is a practice that vibrationally aligns me with the spiritual nature of the universe, a guideline for navigating my everyday reality and an honorable tool for optimizing my wellbeing in all areas of my life.
I truly feel that the more students can grasp the multitudes of yoga, the richer and more purposeful their practice will be.
Yoga as a Spiritual Practice
When I step on my mat, I am infused with the archetype of the student. I am inspired to set down what I know in order to be fueled with what I have yet to learn – no matter how much I think I have my stuff together.
This means that I must be willing to absolutely get out of my own way. I must get past how my hair looks, what I’m doing after class and most importantly – get out of my own head. Being dialed in to the promptings of my teacher is a lesson in whole body receptivity, attunement, and vibrational focus. I am not only listening with my ears but with my heart, my body, my subtle energy field.
When I am on the mat and my instructor prompts me to inhale and exhale while moving through my practice and guides me through each and every posture, I also recognize the ways in which the divine connects to me in the very same way.
My Creator and my guides are always reminding me to keep breathing and nudging me towards which steps to take next in my life. I realize that being a student in yoga primes me for being the perfect student of life. It also symbolizes my ability to trust and receive the guidance that moves me from one movement to the next.
Yoga as a Daily Practice
Because my practice as a yoga student is intrinsically the microcosm to the macrocosm that is my divine guidance, I also feel profoundly more equipped to navigate the path that is my everyday reality.
When on the mat, my instructor never moves us through the entire spectrum of yogic postures known to man. She never pushes us quickly to achieve any posture with force. Instead, we focus on a limited scope of movements at one time that work together. We soften ourselves to reach each asana.
She also meets us on a 1:1 level when she sees us personally struggling and offers options for modification. In this way, I am reminded that there is always a path to make life a bit easier. That I don’t always have to take the challenge, and there are different ways to get to the same thing.
I am reminded to honor my process, my path and the limitations of my physical body.
This teaches me not bite off more than I can chew. When life feels overwhelming, instead of trying to see the entire staircase, I am reminded to just take the next reasonable move. I am also reminded that when I feel like pushing past resistance, I sometimes might get hurt. It’s best to put myself in a receptive state so that the next best thing in life (symbolic to the posture on the mat) and I can meet one another halfway.
In this way, I am no longer showing up to life through my monkey mind. Though sometimes I enjoy a good push and seeing what I am capable of – I am also allowed to show up with my entire being.
Yoga as an Invitation to Deeper Presence
When on the mat, I am encouraged to sit with an asana sometimes even when it hurts. When I finally get into Crow Pose, or Tittibhasana, or whatever has been my challenge – the reward isn’t ‘getting there.’ The true nectar is in being with what I’ve arrived to and learning the valuable message it has to offer me. The meaning beyond the doing.
I take this lesson with me off the mat, too.
When I finally get past a goal or a block that I have been working through for some time, whether in my career, my education or in motherhood, I never feel satisfied in the shallow pursuit of getting it done. Instead, I feel full when I recognize what getting past those humps truly mean for me.
I let myself marinate in the aftermath of ‘getting there’ for a richer relationship between myself and the thing I am arriving to.
When I am able to sit and be in the space of the new thing, that is how I know there is true substance revealing itself. That is also how I know I am honoring that place in my life as much as it is serving me. I am able to recognize what it took to get me there, and what piece of valuable information that leaping pad has to share with me, too. It becomes a living, breathing entity in and of itself, in which we both recognize one another.
Yoga as a Tool for Transformation
And more times than not, even when moving through a familiar asana, I am encouraged to make small adjustments that expand my flexibility, build my strength and also move me into the flow state.
When my instructor tells me to pivot the back foot, or tuck in my belly button, for example, I realize that the small things make a huge difference. It also helps me to see what move I need to take next in order to establish a sense of flow.
I also see the subtleties of what happens when I am in between postures. The spaces between. That there are movements between my movements. I am practicing between my practices.
Each step of my life becomes awakened and enlivened in ways I never saw prior.
And in order to tune into these promptings, I am quite literally forced to step full-heartedly into my ability to be present.
In the same way, when life becomes heavy and I feel unstable, I remind myself to reposition my stance. I am reminded to show up fully and presently to what is taking place so that I can see where I need to exercise balance, flexibility, flow. That sometimes what I do in between the doing, matters too.
Yoga as Devotion
And most importantly, if there is only one valuable tool I could take away from my yoga practice, it is this: I continue to show up to my mat and to my life no matter what. Even when I am tired, unmotivated, feeling imperfect, like somehow there is nothing left to learn.
Because no matter what, I am always met with learning curves, a silver lining, a remembrance not to overlook the smallest of gestures. And because life keeps moving, my work on the mat does, too. The work is never done – and although we don’t practice to be perfect, we practice simply to just practice. To continue to show up, time and time again.
While yoga serves as a multifaceted tool towards the physical and spiritual matters, the deepening and transformation, and the guide towards life itself, it is also in the end, a matter of simply showing up – with playfulness, reverence, and with joy.
I find it to be quite the paradox, that something can be both deeply profound and also innocently light in nature. Life works in this way, too.
Taylor Rose is a mother first, a lover, an alchemist of words. She is a Shamanic Energy Medicine Woman, body-breath-spirit worker as a Yoga Instructor, and a Holistic Doula working in the realms of birth, death, and the unseen.