yoga teacher courses for life skillsBy Jenny Park

We bring our lives into our Yoga practice every day: tension from a hard day in the office, a tight hamstring from a weekend soccer game or just our own expectations. But what kind of life skills from practice can we take back into our lives? Considering how you can transfer lessons from on to off the mat can be very rewarding.

Here are some of the lessons and life skills I have learned from my own practice.

1) It is not about competition. Just as there are no prizes for being the first one to finish an asana, or for taking the deepest pigeon pose, there is no reason to worry about being the first one in line at the grocery store. Constant pushing and its attendant anxiety can even take a toll on health. The life skills I have gained in Yoga for letting go of my need to be the first or the best, help me stay calm in traffic and listen respectfully to critical comments.

2) Remember to breathe. As Yoga practitioners, we constantly remind ourselves to breathe and to be aware of our breath. Providing the body with oxygen is beneficial in strenuous and restorative poses; it is also valuable in daily lives. The tendency to hold the breath and “clench up” when angry or surprised is natural, but actions and decision-making are both improved by breathing. When a disobedient child challenges me, the first thing I do is take a long, slow breath.

3) If it doesn’t feel good, try something else. Differences in muscular and skeletal construction mean that some poses are easy and comfortable for some people and difficult or inaccessible for others. In Yoga, we learn not to make value judgments about asanas, and that modifications are natural and beneficial. Why, then, are we so hard on ourselves when we need a modification in our daily life? Letting go of the way things “should” be done, to focus exclusively on what the need is, has been very freeing. For example, trying to break the habit of eating in restaurants for lunches meant packing a lunch every day. But getting up earlier, locating ingredients and then taking the lunch seemed to cause trouble each morning. Each time the lunch was forgotten, pangs of guilt accompanied my midday meal. Instead, I decided to focus on the goal: eating more healthfully and saving money. Then I budgeted to eat out twice a week in one of several places serving healthy meals, and spent an hour on Sunday afternoons packing three lunches to be ready for the upcoming week. By letting go of the idea that I had to pack the lunches every day, I allowed myself to find a new way that worked out much better.

Think about the ways your practice has grown since you began doing Yoga. Now, how can the positives come off the mat?

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