Get Going/ Health and Fitness
Kristin Booker • October 6, 2013

Sunday Reflections: 7 Things I’ve Learned About Life From Yoga

The yoga studio at exhale mind body spa's Upper East Side location, where I fell in love with yoga.

The yoga studio at exhale mind body spa’s Upper East Side location, where I fell in love with yoga.

I wanted to show you all something.

You all know I spend a lot of time at exhale mind body spa, so I thought I would show you a shot of where I spend the majority of my time. This photo is of the yoga studio at their Upper East Side location and it’s where my love of all things yoga was signed and sealed. I practice regularly at their Central Park South location under the tutelage of my beloved Stefanie Eris (and if you’re in Manhattan, you NEED to take her class), but this studio will always have a place in my heart. It is, without a doubt, one of my Favorite Places on Earth.

Everyone has their favorite means of movement, and for me it’s yoga. I dabble in spinning and everyone knows I love exhale’s Core Fusion classes, but if I could do yoga every single day (and I kind of do), I would. There’s nothing that brings more peace and sanity to my crazy ass life than a good yoga class. It’s effects are quite evident: I was hanging out with Lucky Guy two days ago and was swinging from mood to mood like Tarzan when he said, “You didn’t work out today, did you?”

Okay, then. Guess that answers the question of whether or not working out makes me a bit more sane.

It’s amazing how I can complicate my already-complicated life. If I throw all my deadlines and commitments along with 300+ emails a day and a demanding schedule and hit “Frappe,” the whirlwind of thoughts can make me crazy faster than anything else can, which leads to really bad habits (like taking root at my desk and snacking on potato chips because things are stressful.) EVERYTHING is a priority, HOW will I get everything done, and OH MY GOD what the Hell is coming next?!?”

But regular exercise – particularly yoga classes – seem to help me keep life and all its components in perspective. I was sitting on a mat in that beautiful room today, thinking of what yoga has taught me about life. Among many thoughts (like “try not to be an ass and walk on other people’s mats”) I was struck by these simple life lessons I’ve learned through my yoga practice:

The altar at exhale's Upper East Side yoga studio. Om.

The altar at exhale’s Upper East Side yoga studio. Om.

1) Eyes on your own mat – I take yoga daily with people who are so advanced in their practice they look like they’re levitating off the floor. The fastest way to a bad class is to compare yourself with others, so keeping my eyes on my own practice is essential. As I’ve learned, if you’re doing it right you’re too busy with your own practice to worry about whether someone is better than you. Focus on your own progress, let others focus on theirs.

2) Keep your eyes on something stable when things get wobbly – Inevitably, teachers put me into balancing poses that challenge me to do all sorts of things on one foot. The only way to stay upright is to focus my eyes on something that isn’t moving. When life gets a little unstable, focusing on a goal or a facet of life that isn’t going anywhere is the best way to make it through unstable times.

3) Falling is fine – I’ve been paralyzed by fear of moving into positions where I might crash onto the floor, so I once had an instructor set me up in a balancing posture and keep knocking me over so I’d know what falling felt like. Once you fall, you know that it’s not as scary as you think it is. So you fall. Someday, you won’t. At least I know HOW to fall when I topple over. Fall. Get back up. Try again.

4) Life looks very interesting upside down – I used to hate backbends and positions where my head was inverted, now I crave them. Some of my best ideas have come when I’m in these positions: my mind’s all quiet and I’m looking at everything in a different way. If you’re stuck on an idea, turn it upside down.

5) Simplicity is key – One of the main reasons I like yoga is that it’s uncomplicated: I need a mat, maybe a yoga block or two and a bottle of water. There are hundreds of poses, but my job is to get in there, turn my mind and my ego off and follow instructions. I’m learning that life is also best lived that way: handle the essentials, stop over-thinking everything and remain patient for my gut instinct/little voice in my head to tell me what to do. It’s just easier and I’m happier that way.

6) The only way to progress is to practice – No one walks into their first or even their tenth yoga class knowing everything. You can take yoga your entire life and still learn something new. But, in order to learn and advance, you have to show up for class. It’s that way with everything: work, relationships, building a better life for yourself: you evolve by doing it.

7) Movement is a privilege, the body is a gift – Look, I can talk about the latest fashions and lipsticks until I’m blue in the face, but none of that means anything without the body. There isn’t anything or anyone worth your connection to your body. A million things will stand in the way of me getting to the mat if I let them, and I reserve the right to be grumbly and bitchy when I first get to class. But when I get there and start moving, suddenly everything makes sense. This is the only body we’ll ever have in this lifetime. We live in it every day. You owe it to yourself and the people who have to deal with you to take care of yourself. Whatever that physical expression is for you, do that every day if you can.

Are you a yoga fan? What’s your favorite workout and what have you learned from it? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.



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