In my three or so years of regularly practicing yoga, I’ve learned a lot. And not just about how to do certain poses, or how to stretch a certain way. There has been much more beyond a downward dog and beyond the physical practice.
The lessons extend off the mat, as corny as it is to say. The instructors — anybody who leads a class — always talk about taking away what you learned on your mat and applying it to life off your mat. “Your practice doesn’t stop when the class is done,” is what we’re commonly told. “Take what you learn, and carry it with you, for the rest of your day.”
So, I’ve often asked myself, “What have I learned from the flow and from this spiritual practice? What have I learned from the breath and the energy?” I think there is a lot — the importance of balance, the power of breath, and the necessity of community. Listening to what you need in the moment, understanding your limits, choosing silence over noice, and all the stuff that serious yoga practitioners like to use as their daily mantra.
But recently, I have discovered what has truly been the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the practice, and what these three years on my mat — three years of sweat, strength, and gratitude — have taught me.
And that is to let it go.
I didn’t realize it until I was in a class just yesterday and the instructor was guiding us through our breath. Take a deep breath in, and hold it. One more sip at the top, stretch your lungs. Hold it.
And then let it go.
With every pose, it’d be the same idea. Reach the maximum expression, push yourself to your limits and take a final deep breath in. And then let it go, coming back to ground yourself.
And with each “let it go” and with each deep exhale — an exhale so relaxing I could feel my whole body sinking further into the mat — I realized that this is truly what the practice has taught me, and what I have truly applied the most outside the studio. I don’t think I would have realized it if I didn’t have a lot of my mind during class. And so, her words stuck out to me. I heard what I needed to hear.
I remember in high school, there used to be some classes where I would walk in feeling so tense, and so high-strung. It might have been because of an upcoming assignment or test, or just the stress that was university applications in grade 12 (now looking back, this was not bad at all) — what made me tense is now a distant memory. But at the end of every class, after 60 minutes of flowing, balancing, and breathing, I’d come out feeling so light. A walking on air sort of feeling. Whatever I had been holding onto with anger or frustration was suddenly let go, and I always felt better as a result.
A quote popped up on my feed and it has really stuck with me these past couple of days. Step into the daylight and let it go.
In life, there is so much negative that you can hold onto. There is so much to burden yourself with if you really search for it. A bad conversation with a friend, a mistake you made, a terrible driver on the roads. A bad boss, a poor grade, or just having something not go your way. We have a natural tendency to hold onto things, hold onto hate. It’s so easy to.
I wrote a post earlier this month about everything happening for a reason. And I think the whole principle of letting it go goes nicely with that idea too — trust that things will work out. Trust that it will go according to plan and if not, trust that things will get better over time. Sometimes, the best thing you can do in the moment is to let it go. You can choose to cling onto it, but do be warned it is draining. It sucks so much energy out of you and ask yourself if it is worth it at the end of it. Ask yourself if you are better off because you held onto the negative energy.
And so, going forward, I want to keep repeating this to myself, anytime I’m feeling overly frustrated or upset about something. If it’s out of my control, all that is left to do is really just to learn from it and then let it go.
Let it be easy, and let everything be light.