What Yoga Taught Me About Myself And My Body

Yoga has shifted my relationship with exercise, my overall health, and my attitude to my body. This is what I’ve learned on my journey since incorporating it into my life.

Yoga has changed my perspective on things. I practice gratitude when life rains its glorious good vibes down on me, and am more accepting when life sucks and my rose tinted glasses have broken.

Thanks to yoga I cherish my body for all that it’s capable of doing, and respect it for its limitations (hey, I still can’t do a side-angle crow pose). Plus, I have an exercise regime that is ever-changing and always interesting.

Breathing is not just about staying alive 

Breath is the most important part of yoga practice. We hear this all the time in classes and are constantly told that breath is the anchor of all movement. At first I didn’t believe it. I struggled with conscious breathing and tried to carry on as normal in sassy defiance believing that somehow the basic rules didn’t apply to me. Um… yeah, I was wrong. Once I gave conscious breathing a go I was surprised at the impact it had on my overall movement. I didn’t see spots or feel dizzy. Holding plank pose didn’t make me want to die! Success.

Yoga is playful and fun – the perfect antidote to ego

Five years back my favourite form of exercise was running. It made me feel fit and strong but races were the only thing that kept it interesting for me. After a while I couldn’t tie a shoe without someone asking ‘Are you in any races coming up?’; ‘How far can you go without stopping?’; ‘Do you think you could run in the Olympics?’ – You guys, can I live?

I had always associated yoga with quiet mediation on mountaintops, but surprisingly, this type of deep seriousness is just one colour in yoga’s rainbow, and rarely happens in inner-city studios. After starting to practice regularly I soon saw that in fact, yoga reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously at all.

Yoga helps you break down your ego a little (or shows you just how much your ego is running wild): falling down is part of the process, as is looking strange holding your legs behind your ears. I thankfully realised that students aren’t expected to hold a tripod headstand for ten minutes at a time, that’s why it is called a yoga practice. Phew.

No one cares if you’re good or not

If you’re like me and just a little bit competitive, it may seem tempting at first to compare yourself to everyone else in the room and see where they got their cool #activewear gear from. This feeling faded after a few classes though, and I came to the zen realisation that this brand of thinking is redundant in yoga.

Cool outfits aside, what I found difficult, my neighbour found easy, and vice versa. I realised that my yoga practice is tailored to me – and me alone. Yoga has taught me to value and respect my body for what it can do and the limitations of what it can’t. Om. 

If you don’t listen to your body how can you really look after it?

I work full-time, I freelance, I try to keep up with the Kardashians, and I have a (relatively) full social calendar. Once I got into the rhythm of adding a regular yoga practice to this mix I found it hard to pare back my routine. I didn’t want to skip anything and struggled to keep up with my own life let alone the chaos of the Kardashian world. Eventually, I burned out and was bed-ridden for a week with the mother of all flus. My body was teaching me a lesson for not listening.

Recognising when I am feeling low in energy is a good thing. If I’m craving some alone time watching Broad City, then imma treat myself and take it. I learned there is no point forcing yourself to smash a 90-minute Vinyasa session if it means you run yourself down and have to miss a week’s worth of classes to recover.

State of mind is everything  

About a year and a half into regular practice I realised that I had subconsciously put some poses into the too-hard pile. I either tried it once and couldn’t do it or I was simply too afraid to try at all. And then one day I was feeling high energy. I felt playful. I felt risky. Sure, I’ll give a headstand a go.

I propped myself up against a wall, looked at the room upside down, took a breath, and kicked up. I FELT LIKE TAYLOR SWIFT AT THE GRAMMYS. Or at least like I had just climbed Everest. I was so surprised at my own ability. Go me.

It hasn’t been smooth and perfect headstand-sailing since then, but I proved to myself that I can do it and that the only thing holding me back was my state of mind. Since then, I have braved numerous balancing poses that I’d been too afraid to try before. And in the right frame of mind I’ve achieved them. In the wrong frame of mind I can still say I’ve given it a go.

Now just to apply that thinking to the rest of my life. Namaste.

Claire Dalgleish woke up like this. She’s a freelance writer and art curator who currently lives in Sydney. You can read more on her blog art/writing/projects and follow her via @art.writing.projects