Use This Ancient Quote to Enhance Your Modern Yoga Practice

Alissa Lastres
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I found yoga at a perfect time. I was studying mental health and wellness in my graduate counseling program. This propelled me to begin my self-exploration, and I quickly realized two things: I needed to develop more awareness and control over my own thought patterns and emotions and I needed to start practicing healthier physical and nutritional habits.
 
I did not imagine that I could find these two things together in one place. One evening in class, a fellow student referenced yoga as a way that she decompresses and finds mental clarity. It sounded appealing, so I decided to look into it.
 
A few weeks later I walked into a studio for the first time, rolled out a $10 yoga mat and found my seat on it. I sat in the dimly lit room waiting for the class to begin, unsure of what to expect and intimidated by the effortless pre-class stretching that was happening around me.
 
Within moments, the instructor walked in, greeted us and prompted us to close our eyes as we began the practice. She calmly encouraged us to keep all of our worries, stress, and frustrations off of our mats. Then, she led us through a series of poses. Some of the poses were incredibly difficult; I watched in awe as others in the class moved into arm balances and headstands with ease.
 
By the end of the class I was sold – invested in the way the practice was making me feel and already aspiring to be as centered and graceful as the other students. I felt like I had come home. It was everything I needed in a workout, but I also left feeling calmer, happier and actually looking forward to my next class.
 
In the past two years since that first class, I have worked on many things. It has been a journey of sorts, one that is eloquently summarized by the excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita: “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

“Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

Yoga is a journey of the self

I am learning more about myself each and every day. I am accepting who I am and what I am capable of. I have learned not to rush the process or the practice of yoga. Sometimes an instructor cues a pose and I surprise myself with my own ability. Many other times, however, I am humbled by my inability to do it.
 
I have learned in these past two years to shift my goals with these poses. I have moved from a place of hurried mastery to a place of noticing and enjoying the simple triumphs in the progression toward full expression of the pose. I’ve felt my body change when I finally realized that my hands were in the wrong place, or my core wasn’t engaged or my feet weren’t flexed. I now appreciate and notice these subtleties because they are what ultimately lead to a full expression of the pose.
 
Through this learning process on my mat, I have realized the applicability for life. I’ve learned that I cannot rush things that I want. Instead, I must learn to appreciate the small steps I am making toward my goals, to relish in the little triumphs.
 

 

Yoga is a journey through the self

Yoga is intimate. It is personal. It is hard work. It has brought up all of my stuff and gently pushed me to start working through it.
 
I began to realize that certain emotions and thoughts were coming up before and during my practice. But, after an hour of guided, moving meditation, I often left yoga with a better grasp and understanding of where my emotions were coming from. It has allowed me to face my issues and concerns head on, with mental and emotional clarity.
 
I have found that it is much easier to face my struggles when I approach them from a place of calm centeredness – choosing forgiveness, when I can, of myself and others and choosing to let things or people go when they are not serving me.
 
Through this, yoga has become an anchor in a world that wants us to stray. A world that provides ample opportunity and stimulation to place a haze over our clarity, causing us to sometimes make decisions that are not in line with our true, authentic selves.
 
The anchor is the breath. The meditation. The opportunity to link our breath to the movement and feel peace that our minds, emotions, and decisions are becoming clearer.
 

Yoga is a journey to the self

I am trying to live in today instead of floating away into tomorrow or next year. Sometimes I forget this and become immersed in my thoughts – leaving me open to the array of emotions that accompany a busy and cluttered mind.
 
There have been days when I began my practice struggling with the heavy pain of anxiety, unable to pinpoint exactly what caused this feeling and unsure as to how I could make it subside.
In rare occurrences that were unusually beautiful, I began my practice so anxious I wanted to cry, but later closed the practice feeling so calm and relieved that it provoked the same desire of emotional release.

Nothing can compare to knowing that I have something so powerful at my disposal to guide me to a healthier place.

Since becoming immersed in a yoga lifestyle, I have been on the receiving end of inquisitions regarding my love for the practice — family and friends wondering what lead to this shift and curious about why yoga has embedded itself in multiple parts of my life.
 
Yoga appears to be exploding across the country as images float across social media of ballerina-like individuals contorting their bodies into poses that make us stare in admiration. For this reason, yoga can be viewed as unattainable, or worse, perceived as a short-lived fad. While my own introduction to and knowledge of yoga was certainly prompted from the momentum and exposure it has gained, I am so glad its popularity lead me to it. Yoga brings me back to myself; it makes me feel whole again. It shifts my perspective and allows me to face the day from a more emotionally congruent place. As the Bhagavad Gita teaches us, “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” For this journey I am thankful.
 

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Alissa Lastres

Alissa Lastres has a graduate degree in Mental Health Counseling. She practices yoga daily and loves writing about wellness because she feels that we all harbor so much power to create a life of happiness and love. She is inspired easily, thrives on new experiences, and believes traveling is good for the soul.

alissalastres.com

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