Wednesday, May 3, 2017

7 Self-Help Tips From My Yoga Practice

I'm never quite sure if yoga imitates life, or vice versa. I am sure the lessons I learn from my yoga practice are the same lessons my clients and friends often struggle with.

Certainly, yoga reduces anxiety and improves mood, but the practice is compelling for its subtle teachings. Whether it's recovering from the breakup, improving your health and wellness, or trying to balance work, family and life, applying these principles will help you grow.

1.      No one is perfect. In yoga, the pose that was so accessible yesterday may feel impossible today. Our bodies are different each day. So are our minds. While yesterday you worked, got the kid to soccer, got your steps in, made dinner and it all felt seamless, tomorrow is a different animal. One hiccup can throw everything off. The angry boss, the veggies you thought you had ready for that healthy meal, or the back pain you woke up with, each can undermine our best laid plans. No one can do it all, all the time. Stop beating yourself up and just order the pizza.         

2.      How you do one thing is how you do everything. My elbows are almost always sticking out, when they should be drawn in. No matter what the pose, this is an adjustment I can almost always make. If I'm honest, I can almost always be kinder, gentler and more present. What do you need to work on each and every day? It probably comes up at work and at home, with strangers and with friends. Start by noticing it.

3.      Practice makes perfect. Did I say perfect? Practice does not make us perfect, but it does make us better. I don't despair about my elbows. Slowly but surely, when I practice with an intention to keep them drawn in, I find it's happening with increasing frequency. If I begin my day with an intention to be that kinder, gentler, more present soul I aspire to be, slowly but surely, I come closer to that goal. Set your intention for the day and work on it.

4.      It's the journey. Some days I find myself ticking through the upcoming poses to see how many more I have until my practice is finished. Have I reached the halfway point? Of course, that's not the point! This is challenging because some days the practice seems so much easier than others, making the journey a lot easier. Counting the days until your child's departure for college or a job far away, you'll find that some days are a lot easier than others. Whether easy or difficult, it's your journey, and your only journey. How can you make the most of each day?

5.      Go with the flow. Some days I'm focused on improving my poses, other days on my breathing, still other days I'm moving effortlessly, feeling the flow. I don't decide in advance. It's just what feels right at that particular time. Recovering from something like a breakup, you might try just doing what you feel. Some days are more productive in one way, some days in another. You might spend a day on your garden, or another with friends. Do what you feel that day. Trust your intuition.

6.      Challenges are a gift. Whether it's a thunderstorm, car backfiring or cat trying to topple me as I practice, each is an opportunity to work on focus and concentration. Distraction gives me the chance to work on heightened control and awareness. You've planned a workout and it's hot, you're tired and you ate too much last night. It's time to focus on your plan and work your way through it the best way you can. Recognizing that you can do more than you thought, or that you really don't want to keep overeating, would each be a good result of facing your challenge.

7.      We're all in the same boat. Sometimes my teacher says plant your left heel or bring your shoulders down--I do it and realize she's actually talking to another student. These little fixes apply to all of us. Some days I'm telling everyone (including myself) the same thing, whether it's to concentrate on keeping your side of the street clean, or to look at the silver lining, or to just experience the bad feeling and allow it to pass. Groups of people with similar issues are powerful because we like to know we're not suffering alone. Remind yourself that you're not the only one. Others have been down this road before and have thrived.

So whatever your struggle, view it as a practice. Each challenge in life is something you face, work through and try to understand. Over time you improve in some ways and find yourself lacking in others. Maybe you worry less and enjoy more. Like yoga, there is no finish line. There's always room to grow.

 Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.

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