Life Lessons From My Yoga Mat — Part 3

Bet you thought I forgot about this mini-series! I did not. Books and writing stuff just took precedence for a few weeks. But I still very much want to write about the concept of BEING PRESENT, so here I am. Present. On the blog.  If you're new-ish to my blog, you can check out Part 1 (PATIENCE) and Part 2 (STILLNESS) before reading on. Or live in the moment and forge ahead!

I've had a lot of excitement over the past few weeks. Signing with a literary agent and starting to see this publishing dream get closer and closer to being a reality results, I've found, in being really excited. And eager to see what's next. And then anxious about what may or may not happen. And nervous about starting to write something new. And then excited again. Over and over. I've been trying to remind myself to enjoy the moment while it's here, and to channel my nerves about the future into working hard now. The only thing that will keep me moving forward is to...move forward, in the now. But sometimes it's hard to be present, when there are so many questions and possibilities and dreams about what's ahead.

Remember last week's barely-green tree? Here it is four days later.

In yoga class, one of your goals is to be present. As one of my teachers reminds us every class, yoga isn't the time to be thinking over your plans for the day, making a mental list of everything you have to do, or worrying about something that happened at home or at work. Focusing on the movement of your body through space is its own kind of meditation. You breathe, and you move mindfully, and you clear your mind of the clutter, if only for an hour. Some days, this is easier than others, but when it works, it works.

But being in the moment and leaving everything else at the door isn't the only way to be present in yoga. Beyond that, you have to be present and attuned to where your body is TODAY. Not where it was last week. Not where you hope it will be in six months. Where you are now, in each pose. You have to be aware of your present abilities and circumstances, to avoid injury and maximize the benefits of the practice. In my case, I'm fairly flexible, thanks to my years as a dancer, but there are still days when my muscles are tight. Pushing to where I was a week ago in the same pose could be painful and dangerous. On the opposite end of the spectrum, injuries can also arise if I try to force my body into a position it isn't ready to do. (That's where patience comes in, as well!) Being present is about paying attention to your needs in the moment and respecting them.

How does all of this translate off the yoga mat?

As I mentioned up top, there's the idea of enjoying life as it comes, rather than fretting about what's next. But also, there's the fact that in our technology-glutted society, we always have multiple things vying for our attention. For instance, if I'm bouncing between email and Twitter and Facebook, am I getting my best writing done? The majority of the time, probably not. Maybe, by trying to focus my attention on the activity I'm doing, in the moment, I'll improve the quality of my work and the experience I'm having. Maybe I'll feel and be more productive by giving one thing at a time my best attention, instead of giving multiple things a fragment of my focus.

Beyond that, it's been vital for me to remind myself to think about how I'm feeling in the now — not how I was yesterday, or how I wish I was today. On those days when writing is like pulling teeth, for instance, instead of beating myself up about not being where I was or should be, I can be patient and present. I can work with what I am bringing to the table today, and enjoy the process more without yesterday or tomorrow looming over my shoulder.

This is hard. It's hard in yoga, it's hard in dance, and it's hard in writing. But it's so worth it.

Patience, stillness, and presence. Fellow yogis, did I miss any benefits that you get from yoga? (Aside from the physical perks, of course!)