1. From being probably the most impatient person on earth, I’ve managed to prolong my attention span considerably. Mind you, I still get those urges to rush and hurry but now I’m aware of them and prepared to handle it. Yoga has increased my ability to accept what I cannot change – instead of losing my temper and getting angry or frustrated.
2. Today my body is much more flexible (and therefore also better prepared to prevent injuries) than before. All those years I spent just trying to build muscle and increase strength or speed were more or less wasted, since I was also stiffening up my muscles and increasing the pressure on my joints. Now that I’ve started to open up, I have much more room to build that strength – and subsequently, I’m also a lot stronger.
3. I’m staying healthy. For the past 3 years (which is about the time I’ve seriously practiced yoga) I haven’t had one single flu or any other physical ailment. The deep breathing practiced in yoga clears out both mind and body and the gentle, stretching exercises make you strong both inside and out. Trust me, it’s well worth those hours on the mat. I don’t really see myself losing time at all – after all, being ill takes time away from everything, doesn’t it?
4. I’ve changed my eating habits for the better. One of the central principles in yoga philosophy is Ahimsa, which basically means non-violence. And not only in the sense that you do not violate others, even though that meaning is embedded in it too, but also that you do not harm yourself, for instance by eating rubbish food. So gradually, as your yoga practice deepens, you will probably see, as I did, that you no longer want the things or foods which are bad for you. Instead you’ll find joy in taking care of yourself – and others.
5. Last but not least: from having been a quite demanding, rigorous and judgmental person, my yoga practice has made it easier to let go. I’ve become kinder and more accepting, both towards myself and others. As I’ve deepened my physical practice and my body has let go of its tension and stiffness, the same thing has happened to my mind. Not to the extent that my personality would have changed – I can still occasionally find myself judging others – but I no longer get stuck on these negative feelings. Instead I recognize them, let them go and bring in positive thoughts instead.
A big part of that is just accepting that every person you meet is at their own stage of development and any negativity or hostility on their part is just where they are right now – and you shouldn’t let that reflect on you. In yoga philosophy there’s a deeply embedded thought that we’re all part of the same universe and if you hurt others, you also hurt yourself. But only through yoga have I realized what this means in practice: spread kindness and warmth around you and you will receive it too.