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24 things that I’ve learned in 24 months of yoga

You guys should know that I LOVE celebrating anniversaries and dates, so is it any surprise that I am celebrating the fact that two years ago today, I walked into Johns Creek Yoga for my first yoga class. Multiple running injuries and a state of confusion about where to go next in life… I was seeking a miracle cure. I was skeptical as to what would happen (if it would “work”), I was nervous because I didn’t know anything at all about yoga, and I didn’t expect what would happen when I was forced to simply be alone with my own thoughts for 90 minutes straight.

The mind-body connection rocked me to the very center of my core. Never mind how good my body felt afterwards, but the mental and emotional release that came from my first class (which was yin yoga, as much a practice in stillness as it is in stretching deeply) was pretty earth-shaking. I remember walking out and thinking, “What did I just sign myself up for?” I think I booked my next class before I even left the parking lot. For the first six months, my practice, especially yin, which is extremely meditative in nature, was a struggle, because I could hardly stand to be alone with my own thoughts. Two years later, some days are still challenging, but it is all a part of the work.

I celebrated my “yogaversary” a day early this year, on Friday the 26th, because Shannon, who taught my first class, was subbing at JCY. It’s crazy how much can change in two years! I went from complete yoga newbie to signing up for teacher training and am now teaching, myself. Shannon has inspired and encouraged me at every step. I will always be grateful to her for the safe space she created in the first several yin classes that I was able to take with her when I first started practicing, and I’m thrilled that I was able to practice with her yesterday morning!

Me & Shannon
Me & Shannon after class on Friday 1/26/18

Here are 24 things that I’ve learned in the 24 months that I have been practicing. These all apply to me and my practice, so your mileage may vary. Would love to hear what resonates with anyone reading this.

  1. The bonds and connections that you make with others through yoga transcend culture, religion, and age. Yoga friends are some of the most amazing, caring, and loving friends that you will ever have. Make time to practice with them as often as possible.
  2. Yoga is not a miracle cure, but if you pay attention, it teaches you how to actively and intuitively listen to your own body and how to begin to heal yourself, body and soul.
  3. It’s okay if your practice is child’s pose some days.
  4. Child’s pose is also sometimes the hardest pose you’ll ever take (aka, Warrior 4 — thanks for that, Lindsay).
  5. Meditation is not the absence, but rather the awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance of thoughts.
  6. No one else cares what is happening on your mat. Honor YOUR body, not your neighbor’s. Your practice is your own. Don’t compare. Also… props are your friend.
  7. Your mat will become your security blanket, your safety net, and your sanctuary. It will hold you when you are hurt, sad, joyful, angry, scared, and every other emotion under the sun. It is sacred space.
  8. There is no “full expression” of any pose. There is only your expression of that pose, on any given day.
  9. Your ability to practice yoga is not determined by your hip flexors and hamstrings, no matter what you initially think. Let it go. All you need to do is breathe.
  10. Everything starts from the center. Find strength within. Find strength in your core. Build from there.
  11. Find your edge. Once you get there, appreciate the view.
  12. Yoga is magic, and magic is real. Spread your magic everywhere you go.
  13. Om-ing in class is a little weird at first, but if you take time to notice the vibration of the Om from a full class, it’s one of the most beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear.
  14. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself rocking out to Sanskrit mantras on Spotify while driving down the highway.
  15. Being alone with your own thoughts for 90 minutes is sometimes the most difficult, but rewarding thing you’ll do all day.
  16. There is magic in the in-betweens. Notice the transitions.
  17. When in doubt, breathe.
  18. When you land a difficult pose (even if it’s holding crow for half a second), celebrate! Cause, why not?
  19. Laugh. Especially when you fall. It’s just yoga!
  20. Some poses (and situations in life) will be uncomfortable… but they are temporary. Getting through them will make you stronger, both on and off the mat.
  21. An emotional release can happen… There may be tears… and it’s all good.
  22. There is so much more to yoga than asana (postures), breath work, and meditation… it is an all-encompassing way of life and it will completely change you.
  23. You are perfect, divine, and whole, and you already have everything you need, right inside you. (Thank you, Rose).
  24. The journey is never over. Keep learning, keep reading, keep practicing. There is a reason that it’s called a practice — it will evolve and change and morph over time — there is no destination.

There are just so many more that I could have added!

Two years… sounds like no time at all, but it can also be a very long time, indeed. The person I was two years ago feels so far away from who I am now. I was at a different place in my life, then. I feel like my eyes and my heart have been opened and awakened. I believe that yoga has always been within me, I just didn’t have a name for it and didn’t know how to access it until I was given the right tools. Every day, I make more discoveries on my mat. Every day I learn…

I will forever be grateful for my best friend Ann for pushing me relentlessly to find a yoga studio. She has been the driving force behind this journey… Without her, I would not be writing this post today. Also grateful for my incredible teachers, friends, and those teachers who have become friends, who have guided me over the past two years as both a student and as a brand-new teacher. I can’t wait to see what the next two – ten – twenty – years will bring. There are worlds upon worlds waiting to open up that I haven’t even found yet.

As my friend and teacher, Amy, said in class this morning, “This practice is a gift that you give yourself.” When I walked into the yoga studio two years ago, I couldn’t begin to comprehend what I would be getting out of it. The work that we do, the gift that we receive… it is something to be deeply respected. As Danielle Doby says below: “honor the work.”

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