Breathe, Stretch, Smile

Written by: Michelle Zauzig       

I recently re-immersed myself into a yogi life style. I decided that sitting at work and then getting excited to sit again for another hour at lunch was slightly asinine. So instead of sitting, I decided to take a lunch time yoga class. Monday through Friday at noon; I found my one-hour escape from phones, emails and paperwork. I found a concentration on myself and my breathing; which also ended up being an amazing workout. It's this new pattern to my week that got me thinking about life in comparison to yoga. The people you meet, the lifestyles they live, their vigor for life—why was this community so much different than the little cliques at the gym? Why were they so full of life in a way that deviates from the overly animated, hot-bodied moms sweating through a cycling class? I decided alignment. Maybe of their physical body—but the yogi community is so mentally aligned and so in touch with their abilities that their peace with life and the graceful way they meet their goals is something to be drawn to. 

I was taking a walk the other day when my mind drifted to yoga. The poses I was learning, how great I felt, how proud I was for sticking to a 'workout' class for more than 2 weeks. I thought about how the poses I used to hate the most (due to its ability to pin point me as a yoga amateur) were now some of my favorites. The poses I worked hard at outside of class were something I was proud to show off in class. The difficulties I had always led me to the greatest feeling of accomplishment. The poses that always came easily, I never appreciated. Thinking further, this is what sparked my comparison of yoga to life. Yoga is A LOT like life, just more consolidated and easier to understand. Is this why my super-yogi best friend with the full-body tattoos is so happy, understanding and consistent when it comes to fulfilling her goals? I wouldn't put it past the practice. I think if you understand yoga, you understand ultimately understand yourself. 

Think about it like this:

Life is difficult but gets easier and more familiar as we go on; as with yoga. You take a class for the first time, feel completely intimidated by the buff lady doing complicated arm balances and full splits. You feel lost and look around at the people next to you for guidance when your instructor says a pose in a language that makes the position sound more like a transformer than a yoga move. After your first class, you're sore, humiliated and confused as to why people find this so appealing. You leave, but tell yourself you'll give it one more shot. You walk in again, find a spot in the back corner next to the other lady in nike shorts and a t-shirt rather than Lulu spandex and a sports bra. The class begins, the routine is familiar, you recognize some of the names and what's this...when your instructor says 'shavasana' your heart leaps with joy because you know you get to lay down and close your eyes—and then leaps again for understanding what 'shavasana' meant. You leave feeling accomplished and get excited for your next class. You're back after a couple classes, and realize your mat is slowly making it's way forward. You smile at the scared-looking group in the back. You begin, and wow, you touch your toes! A small triumph, but a notable success nonetheless. You know most of what is going on, but look at the seasoned yogi to your left for some guidance. Tree pose comes. You stand tall and balanced as you notice the same seasoned yogi losing her balance...but regain the pose again with ease. During vinyasa flow you go into warrior 2 instead of warrior 1—but so do two of the newcomers in the back the class—they're following YOU. You smile big and thank yourself for sticking with the practice. You leave and feel accomplished. You're working at it. You're not the best in the class, but even the best in the class faulted a bit while you stood strong. You're getting there—and you're appreciative your effort and the effort of those around you. 

Life is much like that same yoga class. It's an ebb and flow of advanced students, new students, grandmothers, skateboarders, accountants, et cetera. You get them all. You need them all. Like life (and I don't care what anybody says) you need people. You need them as a reflection, you need them for encouragement, you need them for direction, but most of all, you need them as a reminder that you are not alone. Even with vast differences—human beings are essentially the same. We have struggles—all of us. Like yoga, life is hard sometimes, you can seem lost, confused and really not understand what in the world you're doing here—but also, like yoga, you can look to others, breath and keep going to figure it out. In life you'll hit a bump in the road more than once just when you thought that road had smoothed out—in yoga, you'll hit a new pose that you just can't conquer so easily. In life, you'll find people who give you reasons to dislike them; you need them too. Those people have their own struggles and loving them is far easier on yourself (and far more progressive) then holding a grudge. Comparably, in yoga, you'll secretly curse the man to your left breathing too hard, or the super yogi that flows into poses the instructor can't even do—appreciate them. That man breathing hard is there for the same reason you are, he just has to work harder. And that super yogi? Appreciate her as well, she worked hard to get to where she is, she put in the time—and she's sharing her practice indirectly with you. She's saying 'Look what you can be, look what this can do with a little work'. Learn from everyone around you—we all have lessons to teach. Life—we are all working at it; in different ways, at different paces, with different outcomes—but we're still working on it. Don't be afraid to chase after that dream you once had because you feel like you're too old, too incapable or not fit for it. In yoga, people walk in all the time afraid to look stupid doing a pose—but just imagine if everyone was afraid of doing downward facing dog because they didn't want their butt in the air? Yoga would be a VERY different practice. You just have to do it—and realize it's not other's perception of you, but your perception of yourself that is stopping you. Try it—the worst that can happen is that you fail—but even failing will give you a new perception or clue for the key to succeeding.

Life is only as difficult, painful, stressful as you make it...much like yoga. Breathe: do the things ( or poses) that make you feel you good. Practice: the things you once found to be impossible will one day be in your reach. Explore: do things that scare you and surprise yourself with the outcome. Be kind: to yourself and those around you. Laugh and enjoy: because life is too short not to.