When I first discovered yoga as a teenager, I would tell my friends it was the answer for everything. Honestly – whatever problems someone came to me with, the response was the same: try yoga!

I had fallen in love with everything about the practice. The rush of feeling my Mula Bandha ignite with the breath. The bliss of flowing through vinyasa and taking flight in Crow or opening up in King Pigeon.

Most of all, I was totally addicted to the post-class yoga high.

I had never before felt such a sense of clarity. Not in prayer or goal-setting, and not in the kind of way counting reps while weightlifting made me mindless. This was a completely new sensation; one I wanted to share with the world.

Five years later, I still cherish the peaceful, eye-opening journey of peeling back the layers in my mind and entering savasana every time I’m on my mat. Now, though, I appreciate yoga in a completely different way. Yoga is what got me through my depression.

But, I’ve also become significantly more aware of yoga in my daily life.

It’s not so much about the “high” anymore as it is about the process, the way it all connects.

Learn to Release

In the physical sense, yoga is all about releasing. Mentally, it is that and much more.

Yoga is a series of stretching and breathing to unwind from the stiffness we carry every day. This goes for a gentle yin sequence just as much as it does for a powerful vinyasa practice. But no matter how you’re moving on the mat, you’re letting go of the things inside your mind.

Each breath takes you deeper into your higher conscious, away from all the expectations and labels you’ve collected. After your practice, you step back into daily life with a clearer sense of what these labels really are.

You’re not defined by them anymore.

Rather, you’re consciously choosing what you want to be. This is not to be confused with conforming or living up to other people’s standards. Quite the contrary – this is a path to discover who you really are.

Yoga helps you set aside the story and tap into being. It shows you how to let go of regret, pain, anger, frustrations, and disappointment. It also makes you more aware of the way you experience happiness, what you’re clinging to, and the how you form relationships.

Put simply, the more you release, the more you actually gain.

You start to sweat the small stuff less, and appreciate life as a whole more.

Lead With the Heart

Learning to let go isn’t all sunshine and roses and yoga highs.

At first, it’s actually really hard. It’s a messy process of ending toxic relationships and bad habits, which often takes multiple attempts.

But, the silver lining is that all of these changes are radical acts of self-care. They’re born out of a higher sense of awareness, and manifest themselves in ways that make us notice what’s worth keeping around and what isn’t.

Kicking the bad out the door makes more room for the good to walk in.

It lets you lean into the life you’re meant to live a little deeper, just like your heart guides forward folds and backbends.

Discover Your Flow

There’s going through the motions, and then there’s learning to flow with them.

Sometimes, we shut down in negative situations, or become numb to the things we used to appreciate. That’s going through life without living.

Yet, when we flow, we are fully experiencing a moment for what it is. We stop wanting to change, or control, or justify, and we just are – right here, right now.

Flowing looks like choosing not to get road rage in 5:00 traffic. It looks like showing up to work with a positive attitude despite the day’s challenges. It’s as simple as smiling at strangers just because and standing up for yourself because you know your worth. Some days it’s loud and clear, other days it’s quiet and gentle.

Every day, it’s meeting life with the same grace we want to receive.

Living the Truth of Namaste

“The light in me honors the light in you.”

Yoga is the practice of finding our light, and respecting that of others.

It’s easy to feel when you’re in a room full of people flowing through the practice. The energy is electric, yet serene, as the doors to your heart swing open.

But, out in the real world – in the mess of modern America and all of its social, political, and economic strife – light can be easy to forget. It is always within you, though. The more you remind yourself of this through breath and consciousness, the more you can see it in others.

That is the true gift of this journey.