How Yoga Has Made Me a Better Person

 
About 12 years go, I crawled out of my tent, poured myself a red dixi  cup full of orange juice and situated myself in my camping chair under a big shady oak tree to wake up to the crisp May breeze.  A few moments later, my friend Liz asked and some other gals came over to invite me to a casual yoga session she was about to lead.  I’d always wanted to try it, but had been intimated- I had never been flexible or strong.  She handed me her extra pink yoga mat and I set myself up in the back row.  Her theme was simple; just find your breath and do what you can with your body.  For the next hour, I bent myself to the right, to the left, attempted to touch my toes, and ended practice on my back feeling balanced and centered.
She encouraged me to come try yoga where she had done her recent teacher training program, so a week later, I tried an intermediate heated class and just about died.  Funny enough, many years later, the teacher of the class, Nora, became a dear friend, my mentor and married my husband and I.   But there was still something about the way I felt despite the challenge and sweating more water than I had ever seen come out of my body that made me want to go back and keep trying this new yoga thing.
Fast forward five years and yoga had become apart of my daily routine.  On any given week, I would show up for class 5-7 times, I was smitten.  My body was stronger, I could see muscle definition, and best of all, it offered me an outlet to get through the tough parts of my day.  It gave me a safe space to hit the pause button, and my mind would slow down to the point where I could just tune the outside world out. I was ready to learn more about this magical yoga, understand the why’s and how’s of what I was so in love with, so in 2010, I went through a teacher training program.
This program taught me what yoga really was really all about.  The first lecture explained yoga’s eight limbed path.  Within this path, our lecturer spoke of the yamas and niyamas- to simply explain, the rules of how to treat others and yourself according to yoga philosophy.  When I started applying these rules to my everyday life, I saw a drastic change in who I was.
Ahimsa came first- this part of the path means non-violence toward all things.  I changed my diet, started to eat more vegetarian and vegan meals which made my body feel much better.  I needed to become more mindful of my actions and words and really started to think about what I was saying but also how I was saying it.  If I was saying something just to be mean and hurt someone, it now wasn’t worth it.
Asteya came second which means non-stealing.  I had never shoplifted (except for this one time as a kid I stole a bead from Jo-Anne fabrics) but this applied more to stealing too much time and energy away from others.   I started to show up five minutes early to my appointments and meetings so I never took precious time away from others.  I used to love to be the center of attention, but as I progressed through my yoga studies, I realized that this again was stealing time and energy away from others.  I became more respectful of other people and their schedules in general.
Santosha was the final piece that really changed me.  Santosha means contentment.  As a kid, teen, and young adult, I was never enough.  I got straight A’s, took AP classes, at one point played like 5 sports,  I always wanted to be the best and if I ever failed, I was so so hard on myself.  I remember this one time, I screwed up an order at my work and my boss didn’t even punish me because he told me that I would do it better to myself than he ever would.  I’m still hard on myself at times but am much more generous than I used to be.  I know now that when things aren’t the way I want them to be, I can get angry and throw a pity party, or find some contentment for my efforts and what I have already accomplished.
I could really go on and on about how practicing yoga has made me a better person, but instead would like to encourage you to do the same.  If you already practice, what has it give to you?  If you have never tried it out, what’s holding you back?
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