• Alexis Williams

Exhale, inhale, exhale.

Into my second year in graduate school and I’m realizing that yoga is not some activity to do to be cute but an actively, passive movement that became imperative. Day to day, I push myself in all arenas. At work, at school, during active exercise, and even when studying. I’m pushing myself to learn, to understand, and to grow as much as I can. On the yoga mat, I can just be, it is ok for me to come to class, do my best, and have my best be good enough.

Showing up to yoga is active and deserves to be celebrated. In yoga, I do not necessarily have to push myself. Sure, if I’m craving a more active yoga flow, then pushing myself to stay in poses I wouldn’t usually stick with is great, a change and challenge. However, my yoga practice, daily, does not involve me pushing myself nor is it about ego. My yoga practice requires that I show up, a phrase I heard a while ago and have taken time to unpack. Life will never, ever be perfect. In fact, the more we grow and learn, the more challenges we will encounter, because nothing in life is constant.

When challenges greet us, there are two options always, fight or flight. The flight would be to escape or avoid but, to fight would be to do meet the challenge head on and showing up is the first step to fighting. Showing up for myself every day is the core to my yoga practice. No, it’s not perfect; I fall out of poses, I forget to breathe, at other times I’m so focused on the breathing I’ve totally tuned out of what the instructor is saying and get “behind” the class flow. These are like the details of life which can be finetuned and sorted out along the way, as long as I do the very first step and continue to show up. Small nor large details cannot be acknowledged without first showing up for yourself. One must first acknowledge that there is work to be done and showing up for yourself on the mat is active work, work that must be celebrated.

I had to learn that by showing up for myself on the yoga mat, as passive as it felt, that I was actively creating a better me. When I did not take yoga class, not only did my mood suffer, but I could feel the stress weighing heavily on my shoulders and neck. When school is in session, I’m moving a 100 paces a minute. I’m on top of what I need to accomplish for myself, my work teams, my school assignments and future assignments. Knowing that I am ahead of my schedule usually makes me gleeful and thankful, but this particular time it did not. When I was not showing up for myself on the yoga mat, it felt as though I was going through the motions of life. My bestie Alexis told me that feelings are an indicator and I began reminiscing on my last time in a yoga class and it dawned on me that it was time to get back in a yoga class.

The details I mentioned earlier can be finetuned through the breathing. Day to day, breathing is understood in a passive sense because we are not focused on our breathing. Yoga forces participants to focus on breathing so that breath and movement can be simultaneous.

When I do feel myself beginning to feel stress outside of class, I find my breath, as I would on the yoga mat. “You cannot pour from an empty cup” is a quote I’ve seen more than I would like to, however, it is a great reminder to put your needs first before taking care of others. At the very molecular level, active breathing, is taking care of yourself.

Showing up for myself on the mat and leaving my ego at the door is active work. Ego is intricate in how we carry ourselves and reaffirm ourselves, or convince others we’re doing all the above, but it is not needed in yoga. Yoga is about observing and accepting where you are presently in the moment. How can we evaluate where we are currently if we’re viewing ourselves with an ego? See nah, when we have to really, really look at ourselves and check in, we have to do it without biases that could cloud our judgement, like ego.

Yoga has helped me do inner work, whether I knew it was happening or not. What inner work has yoga helped you with?





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