Recently, at the start of a yoga class, the instructor guided the room to set an intention or think of a mantra for our practice. Naturally, my mind went blank. How often does that happen? Wanting to get more than just the physical benefits of yoga, I started to research and reflect on the importance of what yoga can do for the mind and spirit. The catalyst for this was a quote that I found by Amy Ippoliti, a yoga teacher in Colorado, that said, “yoga actually is the process of skillfully turning challenges, failures, hurts and mistakes into opportunities.” This perspective inspired me to contemplate my own obstacles and the ways in which I approach them. Through this reflection, I honed in on my strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which yoga continues to guide me towards a healthy balance between the two.
“The Mind is everything. What we think, we become” – Buddha
We are all faced with challenges everyday, in a variety of forms and intensities. Personally, I find myself to be my own greatest challenge. Sometimes simply the way that I think is, in itself, challenging. We are often our biggest adversaries instead of our biggest enthusiasts; we create problems where they don’t exist and oftentimes assume the worst.
Buddha’s quote is powerful. It tells us to think we are loved…to think we are valuable…to think that we can. At each yoga practice, I seem able to embrace this philosophy, but the real test is holding onto that and taking it out into the world with me. I’m forever reminding myself that external challenges become much easier to overcome when I get out of my own way.
“Focus on your potential, instead of your limitations” – Alan Loy McGinnis
There can be a lot of “cant’s” that we hear in our minds: “I can’t possibly achieve that” – “I can’t overcome this” – “I can’t even imagine that.” The same cant’s can creep into our minds during yoga. I’m aware of this every time we do the simple act of sitting in butterfly, which I “can’t” do, thanks to an old injury.
Yoga teaches me to alter my view, to believe that I can, or at least to understand that my practice will always be different than the person on the mat next to me. It’s that difference that makes my practice unique and tailored to my own body and soul. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of yoga is how deeply personal it is. My imperfections actually make my practice perfectly my own. My butterfly looks different because it is a reflection of me and my experiences.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein
Through yoga, I’ve learned that even just imagining success can be extremely useful. While picturing myself ease into a more difficult posture doesn’t always guarantee perfection, it does encourage improvement. To begin a pose with the idea that it’s impossible is just a surefire way to crumble out of it! However, to imagine possibilities and accept imperfection (and maybe even laugh a bit), we allow ourselves to make improvements and recognize that we are capable of much more than we often realize.
On the mat, it’s easy to accept that mistakes are learning opportunities; moments where the mind and body missed a connection but the chance arises to forge one. It isn’t always as easy to view mistakes as learning opportunities outside of yoga, but that’s exactly what they are. Yoga reminds me to visualize my goals; to make them real and concrete and constantly look towards them. During meditation, I focus on replacing stress with contentment; I simply imagine that I am complete.
“The reward for a thing well done, is to have done it” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why do you find yourself on the mat each week? For me, it’s that grounding force that washes away the stresses of work and complexities of family lives. In the sanctuary of my mat, I’m aware that my shortcomings simply are my opportunities and in the smiling faces of my instructors and classmates, I’m inspired to take that with me beyond the classroom doors. I’m grateful for the ability to practice at Bella Prana and encouraged by the outlet that yoga has become for managing the stresses and strains of everyday life.
By Kristin Ghizzoni, Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Power Yoga student at Bella Prana Yoga Tampa FL.