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5 Life Lessons I Learned From Yoga

by Leigh Shulman Dec 9, 2009
Little did I know when I sat down to my first yoga class, I was about to start on a path that would teach me lessons affecting every other part of my life as well

I REMEMBER SITTING there, waiting for the instructor to begin my first yoga class. I wasn’t sure what to expect, was apprehensive about whether or not I’d be able to physically complete the poses — called asanas — and wondered if my body could handle it.

Now, almost twenty years later, I realize my concerns were for nothing. In fact, yoga teaches you how to feel discomfort, walk into situations where you don’t know what you’re doing and how to move your way through life with greater ease. This is what I’ve learned.

All Bodies Are Beautiful

Have you ever taken an Ashtanga class? I don’t mean ashtanga-based, but the real deal hard core ashtanga series.

It’s non-stop movement from asana to asana, and each pose requires lots of jumping, lifting, extreme balance and strength.

As you make your way through this grueling class, you find yourself marveling at how the bodies in the room move. You stop judging, noticing extra flesh or worrying what other people think and instead start to find extra space in your joints and marvel at the strength in your muscles. When you walk out, you will literally feel a greater confidence in the way you feel, stand and are.

Sometimes You Fall On Your Ass

Everyone looks ridiculous at some point while in yoga class, and chances are, you’ll end up falling many, many times. Try tree pose, crow pose or peacock, all of which ask you to balance precariously on some body part or another. In the same way, you’ll make mistakes at work, yell needlessly at your partner and forget to pay your health insurance bill.

It’s going to happens sometimes, maybe often, and the sooner you get used to it, learn how to laugh through it, the happier you’ll be.

You Can’t Do Everything

Fifteen years of practice, and I still cannot do a full back bend from standing. I’ve tried, I’ve done preparatory stretches to make my back more limber. I’ve tried abdominal strengthening postures to develop the necessary strength. Yet it still hasn’t happened for me.

I know one day I will eventually do it, but even so, there will be another pose, something else I won’t be able to complete. Yoga always presents you with another challenge.

You Achieve Your Goals Faster When You Don’t Force Things

We live in a world where we’re supposed to struggle and constantly move forward, but sometimes it’s better to just let your mind and body rest.

Try a seated forward bending pose. You sit legs straight in front of you and reach gently toward your toes until you feel the stretch. Now, if you attempt to make your body move more deeply into the pose by pushing and straining, you’re more likely to hurt yourself or get discouraged than reach past your ankles.

Instead, just sit in one place and breath for a slow count of twenty. I promise, by the time you reach your final number, you will be reaching more deeply than when you began. Often, farther than you thought you could go.

Consistent Practice Is More Important Than the End Goal

You’ve probably noticed I refer to yoga as a practice.

That’s because it’s meant to be something you do every day. Same applies to your life. Are you frustrated with your boss? Do you wish you didn’t watch so much TV at night? Would you like to take a dance class, but don’t know when, where or how?

Do just a bit today and again tomorrow, and you’ll find the effects cumulative. Over time, you stand a little taller, breath a little deeper and perhaps face the rest of your life with more confidence. You realize you have no where in particular to go, you’re already exactly where you are and need to be.


Share with us the lessons and benefits you’ve found in your yoga practice. Or if you don’t yet have one and would like to, search for the perfect yoga retreat or begin a vipassana meditation practice. In the meantime, here’s some great advice from Christine Garvin to help you survive the holidays with a little extra calm.

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