Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life – 4 Lessons from the Yoga Mat

When we think about yoga, we mostly think about the physical benefits. But yoga offers numerous other, more subtle benefits, some of which we may not even notice.


In this interview with YogaUOnline, renowned yoga teacher Natasha Rizopoulos discusses shares four key lessons yoga can teach us on and off the mat.  Read the summary here, and then watch the full interview on Youtube below.

  1. Yoga Teaches Us the Importance of Eka Grata – One-Pointed Focus

The practice of yoga asanas is an opportunity to relearn to do just one thing at a time, and how to be completely present, notes Natasha.

The aim of yoga, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, has always been to focus and quiet the mind. When we have the opportunity to do just one thing, it changes the mind. Feeling how powerful and how restorative that is, we may get inspired to practice this kind of eka grata, one-pointed focus, in other areas of our lives.

In today’s multitasking culture, where most of us 3 or 4 things simultaneously, this is more relevant than ever. It continues to be the most powerful and transformative aspect of our yoga practice. We emerge from a good practice alert and alive with almost a feeling of mental cleansing, and more open to the possibilities of life. It’s a very distinct difference from daily life.

The beauty of asana is that you can have an experience that is not the hectic, frenzied life experience that most people feel trapped in. Unfortunately, Natasha notes, the way yoga is increasingly practiced today, yoga is starting to look more like daily life.

To preserve the value of eka grata, it’s important to keep in mind that yoga is really a practice of mindfulness, which can inform how we are when we don’t practice yoga, and which can develop our ability to approach life with greater presence and complete attention.

  1. Yoga Teaches Us How to Be Present with Strong Feelings

Over time, many yoga practitioners find that yoga can help develop the ability to be present even with strong feelings.

As we build a consistent asana practice, we develop the ability to notice feelings as a somatic experience in the body, and we begin to realize that we don’t have to ruled or dominated by whichever feeling is present.

As we learn how to allow the feeling to be there, we can continue to be mindful of it while we continue our practice. This ability to ‘hold space’ for whatever may come up is another aspect of the increased mindfulness that develops with practice, if we allow the inward aspect of the practice to unfold.

  1. Yoga Teaches Us to Not Be Limited by Assumptions

Yoga also teaches us that we do not need to be limited by our expectations and assumptions—about ourselves or others.

Many yoga practitioners experience that their perspective changes dramatically over time.  Indeed, our assumptions around a specific situation or event may change radically even within the space of a one-hour yoga practice.

Similarly, our assumptions about ourselves, and what we can or cannot do change over time with consistent practice.

  1. Yoga Teaches Us about the Power of Patience and Persistence

When it comes to working with more challenging poses, one important lesson from yoga is the difference between pushing and persistence.

For example, when we start to work on more challenging poses like Sirsasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), it offers an opportunity to experience how far we can advance with patient practice.  But if we push and try to move too fast, we may get discouraged or even set ourselves up for injuries.

It takes a while to master challenging poses (and some we may never do), but it is well worth the journey. This is important to keep in mind not only in our own practice, and for yoga teachers, even more so for their yoga students.

For many students, progressing towards a specific pose will be an ongoing journey. For this reason, as teachers, it’s important that we know how to teach these poses and how to sequence for them, both within a given yoga class, but also over the longer term.

It’s important to understand how to set up these poses and how to evaluate whether students are ready to do them correctly. We also need to have an array of modifications available. While many yoga students may never do a Shoulderstand, they will still benefit from all of the work done before in the class to help prepare students for the Shoulderstand.  We also need to know which ‘homework’ poses students need to do to slowly build the strength, body awareness and flexibility needed for challenging postures, like Sirsasana and Sarvangasana.

Source: Yoga U

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