What My Yoga Practice Gives Me

I grew up playing organized sports. I earned All State honors as a high school senior in Colorado and played varsity basketball at Coe for three years. I have devoted countless hours in the gym: shooting 1,000 shots a day to build muscle memory and perfect my form, lifting weights to gain physical strength, and running sprints to establish a high cardiovascular tolerance. I’ve done it all.

But teaching requires a different stamina. How can you possibly train for such an intensive eight-hour workday? I certainly do not have the time (nor the desire) to spend on the basketball court. Those days are behind me. For me, the answer is simple: yoga.

Prior to teaching full-time, I had taken a few yoga classes and practiced some beginner-level flows on my own. Nothing too serious. I had other passions and requirements at the time. However, yoga has become one of the key centerpieces of my time away from the classroom. No matter the type of day I have had in the classroom, whether I hit the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I always seem to find my way onto my yoga mat.

So what does yoga give me exactly? When I step into the studio and place my body on the mat, yoga:

  1. Forces me to be still. When I am in my classroom, I am constantly moving. I am physically moving as I teach and guide my students through the learning process. Mentally, I am continuously processing what I am seeing and how it translates to student learning. For eight hours straight, my body and mind are operating full steam ahead. When I step on the mat, I must switch all of this off. Focusing on the outside world diminishes the present practice. I must be physically and mentally still. It takes discipline to stay still. I must live in the present moment.
  2. Provides an opportunity for personal practice and growth. There is no comparison to others. While there is an established yogi community within every class, the focus is entirely inward. I do not have to worry about how my practice is being scored; about how I stack up against my peers. There are no standards to meet. No tests scores. The only thing that matters is my personal growth in the current moment.
  3. Allows me to be a student again. Yoga is impossible to master. There are countless variations and adjustments that can be made to within a pose or flow that completely change the intensity. This idea is reassuring to me. In the same way that I am not held up next to others, I am also unable to achieve an artificial “mastery” level. This ideal is the lifeblood of my practice.
  4. Lets me hit my body’s “reset” button. While some may dismiss yoga due to lack of cultural understanding, every class is a full body workout. My practice is mentally refreshing but it is also physically challenging. During every hot yoga class, the studio maintains a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with anywhere from 40-60% humidity. I walk into every class dry as the desert and walk out wet as a rainforest. My workout clears my body’s toxins and stress. Each drop of sweat washing away the struggles or hardships of my day. I leave it all on the mat.
  5. Gives me mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. When it is all said and done, and the sixty minutes have passed, I leave my mat feeling mentally refreshed, physically exhausted, and spiritually revitalized. I carry these feelings and emotions with me throughout the night and into the next day, when I am once again powered on and moving full steam ahead.

While this is just a synthesized list, the message is clear: my yoga practice contributes to the teacher I am. The teaching profession requires me to give so much, both mentally and physically. Through my yoga practice, I regain all of my diminished efforts and recharge my body’s batteries. I hope you too can find the activity that fulfills all of your body’s wants and needs on a daily basis. If you have tried and failed too many times with too many activities to count, give yoga a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Namaste.

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