If you have ever done hot yoga, regular yoga, goat yoga, paddleboard yoga, youtube yoga or any yoga whatsoever, you know that it is no walk in the park. It challenges you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I started practicing hot yoga or Bikram if you’re fancy, in 2010 when I was playing professional basketball in Iceland. I was bored during the day (Iceland does the whole 3 hours of daylight in the winter thing… drag) and I was desperate for something to do. I could only watch Devil Wears Prada so many times in a day.
As someone who was a non-yogi and about as flexible as a pencil, I thought I could use an hour of “stretching.” I quickly found out that yoga was far more than stretching and far different than any workout I had ever done. As it turns out, It is a surprising and unique opportunity to consciously and subconsciously get in touch with every part of your being.
I showed up to my first class, placed my mat in the far back corner of the room with a hope of going unnoticed which absolutely did NOT work. A black girl in Iceland is kinda hard to miss.
I got ready to follow along and pretty much blacked out for the rest of the hour.
There were some downward dogs, something about a mountain, I tried to be a bow, and then I laid down in Shavasana thankful I didn’t pass out. Oh, and did I mention most of the class was in taught in Icelandic? It was extremely obvious who she was correcting when she spoke in English which was at least half the class.
Once I left the room and had a chance to recover from this new, oddly intense workout I had just survived, I noticed I felt rejuvenated. The aches and pains I walked into class with didn’t seem to bother me as much. My muscles weren’t as sore and before I knew it I was obsessed. I started going 4-5 times a week and felt amazing.
5 Ways to Increase Success: Lessons from Hot Yoga
I have now been practicing hot yoga on and off for the last decade sometimes happily and sometimes reluctantly. Despite all the physical benefits, it wasn’t until recently that I truly started to learn the many spiritual lessons of practicing yoga. Lessons that serve me far beyond my mat. Lessons that have the power to change your life and are key factors in helping one succeed. The first of these is finding comfort outside of your comfort zone.
1. FIND COMFORT BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Practicing yoga requires us to lean into our discomfort. Each pose is an opportunity to challenge yourself and explore a space you have never been to before. It requires you to push your body an inch past where your mind said it couldn’t go, an inch past your fear of falling. By pushing ourselves an inch past comfort, we push ourselves an inch closer to where we want to be.
Yoga parallels the growth, changes, and accomplishments we wish to make in life. We all know how the saying goes… “to get things you’ve never had before, you’ve to do things you’ve never done before.” The things we haven’t don’t before are uncomfortable because they are new. The only way to avoid being stuck where we are and in most cases where we don’t want to be is to cozy up to our discomfort and continue to push ourselves into new spaces or in this case… poses. Even if it is only an inch further. It is one inch closer to who we are becoming in our practice, as a person, and in our lives.
2. WHERE FOCUS GOES ENERGY FLOWS
Yoga requires balance, focus, and intention. As you go deeper into a pose, it is best to find a single point of focus with your eyes. You do not go deeper into your pose using sheer force but rather energy instead. Your single point of focus forces you to be present, thinking only of how you can make the most of this exact pose in this exact moment.
If you are not a yogi or have never listened to pretty much any self-help guru, you may be unfamiliar with the saying “where focus goes energy flows.” This essentially means what you focus on and give your energy to will show up more and more. Or to put it simply, what you focus on grows and expands in your mind and life. If you focus on all of the bad things, they seem to magnify. Similar to the saying when it rains it pours.
If we truly want something different for ourselves, we first have to get clarity on what that “something” is. Focus on what you need to do to achieve your goals, and get your energy behind it.
Here are a few ways to practice focusing your energy:
- Express Gratitude – being thankful for what you already have in your life will help you bring more of those things into your life.
- Prioritize – we do not have an unlimited amount of energy. Conserve your energy by prioritizing what and who needs it most, and how it will best serve you to achieve your goals.
- Stay present – whatever you are doing, be there. Focusing on one thing at a time allows you to maximize your energy.
3. STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR BREATH
Part of practicing yoga is staying connected to your breath. Many instructors will say, “fill up your lungs, oxygenate your body, and release any stale air. Inhale downward dog, exhale upward dog.” These intentional breaths are meant to carry us through the flow. In all other spaces outside of a yoga studio, breathing is simply something we do. It lives in the land of the subconscious. We don’t have to think about it or worry about our bodies not doing it.
The truth of the matter is because we set breathing on autopilot, most of us don’t even breathe correctly. Rather than taking deep breaths with every inhale, we settle for short breaths. The consciousness of breath helps us to be more mindful giving us the mental clarity to focus and be present and more productive.
In our connection to our breath, we stay connected to our emotions and aware of the condition of our body. According to Skiin, Deep breaths help reduce stress, create a calming state, release tension and bring your heartbeat back to its natural rhythm. Reducing stress and anxiety will help you feel more positive and increase your mood.
Consistency is key to being good at anything. Yoga is no different. The minimum recommended times to get your yogini on per week is three. That is the minimum number of times it takes to actually reap the benefits of twisting, bending, and downward dogging.
Consistency is a requirement while mastery is a by-product of consistency. Everyday I show up for yoga, I know that I am showing up for myself. Consistency and discipline are essential when trying to accomplish goals and manifest your desires. They are what get us through the hard times when motivation wears off.
How do you stay consistent?
- Routine – Create a routine that embodies what you need to do to accomplish your goals. Make sure it is realistic and aligned.
- Reference – Make your end goal so powerful that when you see it you get excited. Reference it often, especially when you are feeling unmotivated.
- Reminders – Make reminders for yourself to ensure that you get everything done and are constantly working toward your goal.
Make a commitment to consistency and showing up for yourself every day.
5. SELF LOVE
I am gently reminded of how important self-love is during my yoga practice. Not only in how I consistently show up for myself but also my self-talk, specifically when I am trying to bend awkwardly and half-naked in front of a group of strangers.
Most yoga studios have wall to wall mirrors to help you with your form and focus. It can be easy to fall into a self-loathing or comparison trap. Some people will be in handstands while you are just trying not to fall over on two feet. Some people will be more fit. Everyone is on their own path and it is your job to love yourself where you are at.
The practice of yoga is about you and what happens between the 4 corners of your mat. It is about loving yourself, challenging yourself, and being better than you were before. You are not there to compare yourself to others. You are there because you love yourself enough to take care of your mind, body, and soul.
Every day you make it to your mat, look at it is an opportunity to care for your body, expand your mind, and honor your worth.
Dr. Tasha Harris (@tashamariecoaching) is a writer, life coach and expert in leadership She is dedicated to helping high achieving women find fulfillment, increase their joy and discover their soul’s purpose. Using her certifications in positive psychology and years of experience tapping into the principles of quantum physics, her program The Clarity Lab is uniquely designed to help women get clear on their desires, increase their happiness, and create a life they love.