Three Lessons Sucking at Yoga Taught Me About Mental Strength

By | May 14, 2020

I absolutely hated my first yoga class. I got into yoga in my early twenties, when Bikram yoga was all the rage among my friends. I finished a 30-day challenge where you go to a class every single day. Oh, the power of peer pressure! On day 30, I remember staring into the mirror, wondering what the heck I was doing. I have not only pushed myself way too hard without having the basics; I also despised sweating in 40 Celsius degrees (104F), doing the same poses.

I have given up for a while until I found a type of yoga I loved. After a lot of trial and error, I found an incredible yoga teacher. I owe him, and his no BS approach all my subsequent progress.

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Slow and steady all the way

There are countless studies on behavioral change, and on how we can go about changing habits. There is one thing everyone agrees on: start small.

Lasting change takes a lot of time. The human psyche fights to maintain the status quo. We have beliefs about ourselves deeply ingrained in us that we can only change by taking one step at a time.

Yoga is a fantastic metaphor for life’s challenges. It reminds me to be gentle and patient with myself. Even if your flexibility surpasses mere mortal limits, there will always be a new kind of challenge for you.
If you don’t want to get injured: you are going to have to stop forcing yourself, respect your limits. If you try to hurry up the change process, you will end up frustrated.

Yoga is a fantastic metaphor for life’s challenges.

It reminds me to be gentle and patient with myself.

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“This too, shall pass.”

An old Persian adage that has been quoted by Buddhist monks, stoic philosophers, and by Lincoln. There is a good reason for its timeless popularity.

“This too shall pass” is a profound lesson in impermanence.

It is a double-edged sword, a bittersweet reminder. It reminds us that nothing be it an uplifting or discouraging lasts forever. Thinking about it helps us savor beautiful, fleeting moments. It also helps us through the lows of life, pain and loss. The pain will pass eventually.

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In yoga and life; you can breathe through everything. Yoga is half mental resilience, half physical fitness and flexibility. Every time I felt like giving up, I had twice as much in me. Again, a fantastic life lesson.

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Don’t look at what others are doing.

Try not to compare yourself to others. Easier said than done. It is a powerful lesson precisely because we all know we should not be doing it.

I believe it is a spectrum problem. Our goal is to be low on the spectrum, to diminish the toxic effects of jealousy, feelings of inadequacy.

Make a conscious effort to stop yourself from checking out that hot, flexible person in the back. I know, how did they do that, right? Chances are either they won the genetic lottery, or they practiced diligently. Ultimately, it does not matter. There will always be someone more successful than us in any area of life. It is as simple as that, so we might as well stop beating ourselves up over it.

In yoga, it helps to choose a class where you don’t feel like there is toxic competition. It’s not news that westernized yoga is too much about fake spirituality and crazy bendy Insta stories. Healthy competition is fine; just remember that yoga is not only a physical activity.

Once you found an environment where you feel comfortable, be it at home or in a studio, let the work begin! Everyone is different. Let it sink in. Everything happens at a different pace for every single person. We all know it in theory. Use yoga to reach a more in-depth understanding. There are no set timelines for life, yoga, relationships, work, personal development.

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It’s a hard lesson, as we know we are all born with a different set of talents, wants and needs. Yet we are bombarded by messages about how a well-lived life should look like, what success means.

Use yoga to appreciate your uniqueness, to respect your mental timeline.

* * *

Practicing yoga is way more profound than improving your physical fitness. It is incredibly powerful to have time in your day that is only about you, your body and mental resilience. There is a type of yoga for everyone. I would like to encourage you to find your questions and the answers to them.

Make sure you stay gentle with yourself, respect your body’s boundaries, and to keep going no matter what. Namaste!

Previously published on “Change Becomes You”, a Medium publication.

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