What Yoga Has Taught Me.......

Posted on 17 July 2016

We asked 7 yoga teachers what they have learned about themselves and how they view the world through the practice of yoga.

Here is their wisdom. 


Emily Hager

There’s so much I can say about what yoga has taught me over the past six years. A lot of it are things my parents, mentors, friends, and therapists have tried dearly to impart on me, but I haven’t been able to retain until I experienced it through my yoga practice. I’m a taurus - stubborn, bull-headed - and I very much have to learn things for myself, especially things that suck. These have been my lessons, they may not be the same as yours, but they have been gifts for me.
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally - Newsflash, the world doesn’t revolve around me. I don’t always remember this at first, but when I do it’s like an exhale and I can move on.
  • Compassion - Compassion is such a beautiful thing and I don’t know how much I truly felt it before I dug into my yoga practice. I’ve found in order for me to be able to share compassion with others, I must first extend compassion to myself.
  • Practice - it isn’t Perfect, it’s Better - Yoga reminds me to live life. I often get caught up in outcome oriented thinking and what’s next, what’s next, what’s next. Good things take time, and when I’m in my practice (less physical more mental) I’m learning to chill the fuck out and still be a bad ass.
  • Growth is Uncomfortable - End of story.

Emily Hager is a yoga student and teacher at Move Your Hyde Power Yoga in Cincinnati, Ohio. Co-founder of esprit de corps : the arts, an interactive and experiential two-day event exploring the question : “how do we bring art, meaning, and expression into our work ?”. Project manager at possible. Freelance branding consultant. Let’s work together to stand taller. http://www.emilykhager.com/
 
Mandy Baughman 
  • Yoga has Taught me to Love me, Just the Way I amThis practice has saved me from myself.  Before finding yoga, I lived in a space where I thought I was not worthy of meaningful, healthy relationships, I carried a great deal of self doubt, and my self-esteem was nonexistent.  Through a consistent yoga practice, those things started to shift. I began to find confidence on my yoga mat, which inevitably flooded my life off of the mat. Each message my teacher shared with me, I heard and took home and pondered (and I still do today).  I knew that if I could hold a warrior two pose for 10 or 20 breathes that I could apply that strength off my mat; with each practice, my confidence grew and my armor started to fall which made space to be kind to myself, have worth, and learn that I am enough. 
  • On Meditation - Meditation has taught that I am not my thoughts, rather the witness behind them. So when I am having an off day and thinking those negative thoughts, I know that I am not what my ego is telling me I am. I am able to acknowledge the thoughts I am having and let them pass by, like watching a scene in a movie. 
  • On Difficult SituationsI have learned to respond to difficult situations instead of reacting to them. Yoga and meditation has taught me that getting really mad about something does not change the outcome. When life grants me opportunities for growth, I meet them with with a juicy, deep breath, respond, and accept what is facing me.
    Mandy is Yoga Alliance registered instructor who received her certificate from Inner Bliss Yoga Studio in Cleveland, Ohio. She is motivated to create a space that is centered around the breath where her students can experience bliss, self-love, challenge, and connection to themselves and each other. 
     
    Tori Williams
    • How To Find Ease In Moments of Discomfort - Yoga poses are all about finding that balance between effort and ease. This is something I relate to my life constantly. Learning to be able to breathe through and remain calm in uncomfortable situations has been one of the greatest gifts yoga has given me. Everyone has to deal with their own trials and tribulations on a daily basis, and we all have to deal with really difficult people and situations sometimes. This idea of letting go and finding stillness when your world starts spinning is so essential both in yoga and in life. It has helped me on countless occasions since I began practicing.
    • Why You Should Surround Yourself With Uplifting PeopleThe yoga community is so kind and encouraging. These are the people who want you to succeed and prosper and reach your greatest potential. Being surrounded by so many wonderful individuals made me take a hard look at the people I was surrounding myself with, and I realized that these people were quite the opposite of what I needed in my life. I was told in yoga training that you are the average of the three people you spend the most time with, so why wouldn’t you want those people to be supportive and genuinely good-natured human beings? Your vibe attracts your tribe. Radiate positive vibes and befriend those who are authentic and true to themselves. Your friendships have a greater impact on you than you may think. 
    • Be Kind to Your BodySince practicing yoga I’ve found a new appreciation for my body and all of the wonderful ways it cares for me, and so I make sure I treat it with respect and that I nourish it with natural and delicious food. Like so many other young women, I have struggled with eating disorders and body image issues, but this practice has made me love my body and want to care for it in every way that I’m able. Rather than being neurotic about ‘having to get my yoga in’ for the sake of calorie burning and toning, I get excited to get on my mat and sweat because I’m doing something good for both my mind and my body. 
    • Perfection is a PrisonOne of my favorite things about the yoga practice, and especially the Baptiste yoga practice, is that everything you do on your mat is correct. Before stumbling upon my first Baptiste yoga class, this was not a concept I was familiar with. There’s nothing to perfect? Nothing I have to do exactly right so that I am deemed a ‘good yogi’? It was life changing for me. We live in a society where we want to achieve the image of perfection on a daily basis…perfect body, perfect career, perfect relationships, etc. And it’s exhausting. The need for perfection limits you in so many ways, and yoga opened my eyes to the idea of not having to always get it right all the time, both on and off my mat. And it is so freeing. 
    • Knowledge is PowerYoga has made me want to constantly better myself and to fuel my mind with new information, ideas, and theories. Through yoga I’ve learned that consistent growth and improvement is key for each and every one of us. We should never remain stagnant and complacent with our yoga practice or with our lives. We should always be looking forward and trying new experiences; figuring out new ways of approaching things whether that be a yoga pose or a lifelong goal. 
          Tori Williams is a writer, editor, dancer, and registered RYT-200 living in Charleston, South Carolina. She holds a BA in Communication and minors in International Studies and Dance from the College of Charleston. In her spare time you can find her sweating it out on the dance floor as a company member at Dance Lab Charleston or in a hot yoga class at Charleston Power Yoga, cuddled up with her cats Buddy and Goose, or reading every article and book she can find. 
           
          Michelle Gottfried 
          • My body is Incredible I’ve been at war with my body for as long as I can remember. My practice has helped me to shed the layers of hatred and find a true appreciation for what my body can do. Not just physicality and strength, but normal processes. How amazing is it that my ribs know to expand wider to take in that extra bit of air I need to calm down? 
          • I Don’t Have to be PerfectI like to look perfect and nail everything perfectly. When I began my practice I would scoff at myself for falling out of halfmoon or not having the strength to hold a 90 degree bend in my knee in warrior 2. Slowly (slower than a turtle’s pace to be honest) over time, my practice has shifted my thoughts around perfection. I’ve developed the ability to laugh even when I fall out of something or wobble or nose dive.  With so many different variations and layers to each pose there is no “end goal” to a pose so why not keep falling and then falling again?
          • Just Being is Okay - In our society multi-tasking and being busy are usually celebrated. Even in downtime when I’m watching a movie or tv I often find myself doing something else—checking email, folding laundry, etc. My practice has taught me that it is okay to just be. There is no need to constantly be doing things or doing more than one thing at once. Focus on the present moment and what is occurring right there and then. 
            Michelle is a RYT 200 based in Charleston, South Carolina who is on her way to becoming a Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher. She is a graduate of Clemson University (BS '11, MS '13) and loves Clemson football! 
             Shelby Ring
            • I Can be a Real Bitch - To myself, to other people, to complete strangers. Yoga has helped me understand parts of myself that embarrass me, that I feel shame about, that I get angry over.  The difference? I notice these things - feel it, and then breathe and let it pass.  When I would see my behaviors show up prior to yoga I would become disgusted at my disgust; angry at my anger. I would hold it in and let it become a part of me. The difference now is I understand separating my thoughts from myself, and breathing and letting them go; and letting myself go. So yoga has taught me that yes, I can be such a mean, mean girl. We’re talking Grade A mega judgmental bitch; but it’s that awareness and seeing myself slip into those attitudes or behaviors that empowers me to soften and find compassion, to find acceptance and kindness.
            • I Actually am a Flexible Person - Prior to yoga, I had zero belief or concept that I had any sort of “flexibility”.  Growing up playing basketball and soccer and later long distance running, I don’t think I ever really touched my toes. Yoga taught me to reframe the way I view flexibility and my relationship to my physical body. For example; prior to physically feeling anything else, I believed the ability to touch your toes or not was simply how tight your hamstrings were. Yoga taught me the concept of moving from my core, and my core includes my spine, and if I move from my core there is so much more available than simply folding over. It’s a simple subtle thing in words, but I have found a lot of freedom in this.
            • Vulnerability is the Fountain of Youth - I used to think that the harder my external countenance and overall “bad ass bitch” vibe I had, the more protected and secure I was. In reality, it was the complete opposite. In my teacher training I experienced how liberating and how much lighter it feels when you share what you're scared or ashamed of with another kind soul.  That person who hears you doesn’t have to solve or fix anything; it’s in bearing witness to your heart healing happens. My weaknesses genuinely are my deepest wells to pull strength and compassion from.
            • I am not Grounded 90% of the Day - When I meditate, I come into this experience of deep, deep calm, peace, and knowing. I am not in a hurry, I am not annoyed, I am not frustrated, I just am. It’s so profoundly powerful to just be. I come into that, I become familiar with that sense of deep understanding and being rooted; and then I get up after meditation and within two hours I am back to chasing my thoughts, acting on my impulses, following the stories. So being honest, meditation has made me recognize I am not genuinely grounded 90% of the day. AND that’s okay, I am realizing the difference between those two worlds of thinking and am making proactive lifestyle changes to make that number smaller. That’s where and how it starts. Awareness.
            • You Realize that Sometimes you act like a 5 year old having a Temper Tantrum in the Candy Aisle - When an emotional “hot button" or stress pops up from something four years ago (prior to yoga and any concept of meditation) and I feel those autopilot emotions and impulses kick in, I feel them, I see them, I recognize them, and then I freak out sometimes about how irrational and ridiculous I am being. Before yoga and meditation, I would have these tendencies of attitudes and behaviors that coincide with ‘flying off the handle’ without a second thought. Sometimes seeing these reactionary behaviors blows my mind, and working on changing these impulses feels humbling, humiliating and childish; but the fact that I have the eyes to see these things and redirect it is absolutely amazing. So when you open yourself up to yoga and meditation and this pathway of self development (even if it starts with toning your butt), the things you learn and see you may be taken aback. So just relax and know that it’s good, it’s powerful, and it’s okay. 

            Shelby Ring is a RYT 200 based in Galveston, Texas. "Loving and accepting myself, feeling powerful regardless of my circumstances, and being present were three very foreign concepts  to me just a few years ago.  I stumbled upon yoga in a really difficult time in my life, and it taught me how to process and release difficult emotions, heal and love myself, and feel powerful in my own skin. When I'm not teaching yoga you might find me filming a wedding, hunting, frying or fermenting something."

             

            Katherine Lasky

            • To be able to Surrender - Letting go of the need to control everything, or do everything, or "analyzing the shit" out of everything.  There is a fine balance of productive actions and being present to the world unfolding in front of you.  
            • On Communication - How to communicate intentionally and clearly when I teach and when interacting with others daily.  
            • Equanimity -  "Mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under stress or strain; calmness; equilibrium."  It's the best!
            • Yoga is So Much More than Physical Asana - In my opinion, the physical asana is a "gateway drug" or a "tipping point".  I now use the tools the practice has given me (i.e. breath, self-compassion, awareness, mindfulness & more) every single day.  First you state your intention for whatever day, situation, interaction, etc.  and then you practice it moment by moment, to the best of your ability.  Your everyday yoga will build positive momentum in life through wholesome habits. 
            • On Letting Go - If I get too serious about my mind I can get down on myself.  Our minds and actions are sometimes very funny things. Sometimes the best thing to do in a situation is to let go and laugh.  

            Katherine Lasky attained her RYT-200 HR from Charleston Power Yoga in 2015.  She loves reading and sharing information about the positive neurobiological relationships between meditation, mindfulness, and yoga practice.  She currently teaches at Barefoot Yoga Studio, privately, and for the Charleston County Move It! Fitness yoga programs.  

             

             Sarah Pelkofsky 

            • On My Monkey Mind - Yoga has changed my life and taught me so much about who I am as a person. Through yoga I have found ways to calm my anxiety and racing thoughts by focusing on what is happening at the second exactly. I am able to take this off the mat and into my life.
            • On Breath - Yoga has taught me breath. I can breathe into a pose when it is tough and use my breath to help me through. For me yoga has taught me to take that extra second of breath before reacting to situations. This is a practice and it challenges me to think before I react.
            • Life is a Practice - Yoga has also taught me that life is a practice and we're working towards progress and not perfection. I'm a HUGE perfectionist and yoga is teaching me that by being imperfect, I'm OK.  I'm not sure I would be able to survive without yoga!

            Sarah is 25 years old and started practicing yoga with her mom in high school. She has taught middle school math for the past 3 years. Currently she is teaching yoga and planning the next big adventure! 

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