Matt—As I get ready for my yoga instruction training in Bali, I'm reminded of the things my teachers have said to me that have deepened my practice over the years. These are the sayings I return to every time I get on my mat.
"If you can't breathe deeply, you've gone too far." –Carolyn Anne Budgell
She walked over to me in revolved triangle and reminded me that yoga is not about the pose, it's about the breath. When I go so deep into a pose that I can't breathe deeply—like I do seated at the beginning of class—then I need to back off. The breath is what creates the magic.
"Balance comes from patience." –Chris Chavez
As I frantically attempted to kick up into a handstand, he placed his hand on my upper back and reminded me to chill the France out. When one attempt to kick up to handstand didn't get me up, I would quickly come down and shoot right back up again. His reminder to reset between each attempt, to add patience into my practice, helps me whenever I am in a balancing pose (be that right side up or inverted). When I slow down my mind, I slow down my movements. And all of a sudden the power and awareness I need to achieve balance comes rushing in.
"Don't let quitting be your habit." –Gloria Latham
She says this to the room as we are on minute 72 (or what feels like that) of some arm rotations during her infamous Friday night Kundalini class. All I wanted to do in that moment was quit—to give my throbbing shoulders and tired biceps a little break. Because some days I need to back off because that's where my body is at, and other days I feel like I need to back off because my mind is telling me that I'm more weak than I actually am. Listening to that stingy voice creates a habit—one that I don't intend on keeping. So I kept rotating my arms.
"Yoga is easier when you smile." –Christie Baumgartner
As we sit in a tall seat at the beginning of class, she shared with us that deepening our practice comes when we can smile throughout it. She continued to tell us that when we smile our face muscles actually expand our nostrils - making it easier to breathe. (Yes –you just smiled to see if it was true.) So if I want to create a deeper inhale or a fuller exhale, I don't always need to create more power with my lungs. Sometimes it just means I need to smile. And smiling releases endorphins - meaning I not only have more power because of my deeper breath, I also enjoy the pose a bit more.