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Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Tired Tuesday? (I made that one up.) For me, this time of year brings back memories of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received and the gifts gone wrong. I’m already feeling the pressure and anxiety–the hunt for the perfect, most thoughtful, most cherished holiday gift is on. As I begin to make my holiday list and check it twice, I am reminded that the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received were not the cutting edge electronics or even a hand-knitted scarf, but lessons learned that reveal something about ourselves and where we come from. Stories about family history, passing down great grandma’s famous cookie recipe, or a secret shared between friends–those are the gifts you really remember 10 years later.
It’s the same with yoga. It’s true that the time we spend on our mats can eventually help us to attain impressive poses or a slimmer, more toned body. But it’s the lessons we learn about ourselves in the process that change the way we view, and interact in, the world.
1. Strength. Physical strength is definitely a gift that helps me in my daily life. But it’s the mental strength–the discipline–that I will be able to lean on even as my body ages and I can no longer hold myself in advanced postures.
2. Awareness. Thanks to my yoga practice, I am more skilled at noticing the physical signs of stress. I notice when my breath gets shallow and muscles get tense. And knowing is half the battle.
3. Confidence. There are many yoga poses that make me feel like I can conquer the world. If I could teach myself to stand on my hands, something that seemed SO impossible a couple of years ago, there are bound to be other seemingly impossible challenges today that I can conquer tomorrow.
4. Training for Difficult Life Situations. Even when my mind and my muscles are screaming to get out of a pose, I know I can stay there for just a few more breaths. That’s what gives me the strength to keep going in uncomfortable situations in life, too.
5. Rest. This might be the most important gift I’ve gotten from yoga. It’s OK to rest. There’s never a reason to feel guilty if your body or your mind is asking for a break, take it! There’s wisdom in knowing and respecting your limits.
What priceless gifts have you gotten from your yoga practice over the years?