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The #1 Most Important Lesson You’ll Learn from Yoga

Leta Stevens
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My favorite thing about yoga is that every lesson I have learned on my mat can easily be translated into life outside of yoga.
 
One night, our instructor informed us that the sequences of asanas would be longer and more elaborate than normal. She urged us to go at our own pace, to take child’s pose whenever needed, to do what feels right in our own body, and to finish in our own time.
 
As I did my asanas, I really focused on my own pace, making sure to go deep enough in my poses to really FEEL it before moving on. Some yogis were going faster, some slower; some almost in rhythm with me. Some yogis would break frequently for water, some hit modified versions of the asanas and others skipped certain asanas altogether. While I noticed this in my peripheral vision, it did not affect my own flow. I was focused on me, my mat, and my practice.
 
Breathe in, breathe out. Warrior I. Feel good? Okay. Now, Warrior II. Ready for the next asana. Oh, this feels good . . . Sit in this a little longer. Okay, next posture.
 
When you’re in yoga class, you may struggle with some asanas – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to do yoga. You may be more skilled than other students, or vice versa.
 

That is the beauty of yoga – it doesn’t care about perfection – only intention and effort. Yoga is for everyone. Life is for everyone.

 
There are times when I find myself in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B – we all do this. Then, there are times I desire a slow pace and wish to take my time.
 
Go at your own pace.
 
To apply this concept of going at your own pace off the mat – if you want to take a “gap year” after college to travel and see the world, then do it! If you want to spend your 20’s immersed in work, climbing up the corporate ladder to “coast” into your 30’s, do that. If you want to get married and start a family as soon as possible, go for it.
 

You choose the speed at which you chase after your dreams. You are in control. Don’t feel pressured to match anyone else’s speed or intensity in ANY area of your life.

 
Each of us will experience life, love, and yoga at our own pace.
 
Stop for water if you need to. Drop into child’s pose at any time.
 

 
Don’t be afraid to make a pit stop or take a detour. Throughout life, different things will end up taking priority: love, school, a career, social life, or hobby. It’s okay to “go off course.” There will be times where new things will take precedence over other things that were once really important to you.
 
Allow yourself these phases to refocus. Giving yourself the ability to readjust your priorities from time to time just ensures that you’re giving adequate time to develop yourself in multiple aspects of life.
 
We create our own paths – straight and narrow or long and winding – and as long as we love the one that we have chosen for ourselves, that is what matters.
 
We are here to practice yoga as a community, not as a competition.
 
Life is not a competition. It is not a race. You may have chosen to focus on a career, multiple degrees, traveling the world, yoga teacher training, starting a family, or maybe you aren’t sure what you are focusing on at all.
 
Recommend Read: 10 Truths and a Fair Warning About Yoga Teacher Training
 
We are all just trying to go through life and find our place in this world. Let’s focus on supporting others, no matter their path. We are here to empower and support. We are here for friendships, relationships, and community. We are not here to compete.
 
It does not matter if someone next to you is going faster or slower than you are. Go at your own speed; do what feels right for your body.
 
As individuals, we simply reach different milestones at different times in our lives. Everyone is at a different chapter of life. Certain chapters may come earlier for some (a chapter of love, relocation, career change, etc.) and later for others. Faster or slower, it makes no difference, since it does not affect the speed at which you go through life. You are in control.
 
Feel each pose.
 
Be present. Live in the moment. Soak it all in. How do you feel right now? How is your breathing? Are you currently present or are you just going through the motions? These are thoughts I constantly have as I’m doing yoga. How amazing would it be to be this aware of yourself, surroundings, and feelings all the time?!
 
Make it a priority to feel. Live with the intent to be alive in each beautiful moment that you are given.
Finish in your own time – we will all meet at the end of the flow together.
 
It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your flow, or life journey – you can take a break or drop into child’s pose – you can speed up, or slow down. We all finish in our own time.
 

We are here to be a community. We are here for the camaraderie. We are not here to compete. We are here to look inward: to focus on our body and our mat and find ourselves.

 
It began as one yoga class that was meant to help me unwind, but it ended up being much more than that . . . it was reassurance that my journey is mine alone and I can move forward as I like.
 
Let this serve as an important reminder – you are in control; you can change your path or speed at your own will. You do not need to be in any rush. You are in competition with no one. You are doing what feels right for you. You’ll get there when you get there, and until then, you’ll continue to focus on being present in each moment and making the most out of your current experience.
 
Namaste, yogis!
 

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Leta Stevens

A Chicago twenty-something, trying to live the healthiest, happiest life that I can. Corporate retail professional by day and an avid fitness freak by night. As a nationally qualified NPC bikini competitor, I love all things health and fitness. I am a (self-proclaimed) wannabe Betty Crocker and I follow flexible dieting practices. I am currently studying to become a certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

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