Has yoga changed your life? It’s pretty likely, since just about everyone who practices yoga has been touched in some way by its transformative power. Maybe you simply feel better in your body. Perhaps you’ve experienced more profound changes in your life, relationships, and worldview. But because these changes often take place over time, as a part of a subtle and organic process, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about yoga that helps you to live a better life.
Tantra scholar Rod Stryker says that to truly understand why yoga is so transformative, you first have to understand the concept of transformation. The idea that yoga changes you into someone better than the person you were before is something of a misconception. It is more accurate to say that yoga helps you remove the obstacles that obscure who you really are, that it helps you come into a fuller expression of your true nature. We’re not transforming into something we aspire to, we’re transforming into the very thing that we are innately: our best Self.
One way yoga encourages transformation is by helping you to shift patterns you’ve developed over time, patterns that may be unhealthy. When you put your body into a pose that is foreign and you stick with it, you learn how to take a new shape. Taking this new shape with the body can lead you to learn how to take a new shape with the mind. If practiced correctly, yoga asana breaks down the psychological, emotional, physical, energetic, and psychic obstacles that inhibit us from thriving.
Yoga also teaches you how to make better decisions. Everything about practicing yoga involves intention – you set apart time in your day to do it, you move in a specific manner, breathe in a specific way. And when you are mindful and deliberate in your yoga practice, you create the opportunity to become more mindful and deliberate in your life. The people who stick with yoga realize that they make decisions that are more constructive than destructive. “I often tell my students that one of two things will happen after you do yoga for a few years: Either you will begin to change for the better, or you will stop doing yoga” (Stryker).
Perhaps most important, your yoga practice allows you a glimpse of the joyful and free person you can be. Practicing asana shows you that you can accomplish things you never thought you could. At first, we think, “There’s no way I am going to be able to do a Headstand.” And then, in little increments, we start to gain the confidence. And then all of a sudden we can do it. When you’re lying in Savasana at the end of a yoga practice, after you have worked hard and felt thoroughly present and connected to your body, that sense of joy and freedom you experience is an expression of your true nature. Even though it may be fleeting, it shows you what is possible.
For a look at yoga’s amazing healing power, read Julie Peoples-Clark’s story. Her daughter was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy as the result of mistakes made by the birthing center, and Julie (mom) fell into a deep depression. She says that yoga saved her life. May her story inspire you to trust in the practice and in the answers that arise from getting to know your own Self.
“The only limitations are those in your head. Everything else is just a technical problem.”~Julie Peoples-Clark