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How Yoga Has Taught Me Patience

Posted by Alice Jennings on 3/20/2014

"If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad of stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy." - Ravi Ravindra

 

"Patient" is not a word I would use to describe myself. In fact, one of my main character defects is that I am unreasonably impatient. In identifying this defect, I made a conscious effort to work on myself by teaching myself to be quiet; to be still — which would, I hoped, eventually lead to increased patience. They say patience is a virtue; if this is true, impatience is a vice. And eliminating bad habits is one of my favorite activities, because it is challenging and builds upon my willpower and self-control.

 

Yoga is my go-to for all of my physical but especially my mental ailments. Feeling blue? I’m at the studio. Panic attack before the morning meeting? Yoga over my lunch break. I always leave feeling better, with a sense of resolve. I prefer sweatier yoga classes — the Power Yoga class, the Vinyasa Flow class, Bikram, the Ashtanga Level 2 class … but for this issue, I ditched the hot yoga mat towel and busted out my restorative props. For three weeks, I redirected my yoga regimen to slower classes: each week I attended a yin yoga class, a restorative class, and a hatha class. I even took a few unique classes for extra credit: a deep tissue massage yoga class (using tennis balls and other small massage balls in conjunction with the weight of the body for myofascial release) and Transcendental Meditation (TM). I set my intention every morning and re-set them before each yoga/meditation class for these 21 days with this mantra:

 

"Today I will find happiness in stillness. Today, I will find patience."

 

After each class, I could lay still in savasana. Initially and throughout my previous yoga practice, I had a hard time keeping my mind still while my body did not move. My mind cycled through thoughts of what I was doing after class, personal problems I had that day, what to make for dinner... These thoughts frustrated me. I became angry in savasana. A few days into my three week pillage, a yogi taught me to allow the thoughts to enter my mind, recognize them, then let them wash over me. This was some of the best yoga-related advice I had received in years. I took this concept with me to bedtime, and my sleep has since improved.

 

While I practiced my asanas in these slower paced classes, I had time between poses to focus completely on alignment, balance, improvement, and stretching. Anytime my mind would wander, I would turn my thoughts to what I was really experiencing in that exact moment: the ebb and flow of my breath, the soft feeling of my yoga mat under my body or the serenity and bliss I was gaining by being amongst the energy of others who were also trying to better themselves. These feelings were profound and powerful, and kept me motivated on my quest for patience.

 

About two weeks in, I began to observe a noticeable difference in the way I handled patience: my commute to work was the first obvious change. No honking, speeding, cursing the light for turning red, or road rage when other drivers cut me off. "This thing is actually working," I thought. After lunch, during work, 5 pm rolled around and for once, I was completely unprepared; I was not geared up and ready to dart out of the door because I had stopped compulsively looking at the clock. These types of changes were small, but made me a happier person. I was happier because I could wait. I could sit still. I was practicing patience.

 

The three weeks are now over and I learned mostly through the TM practice that I could stop being the impatient person I had previously labelled myself. I could write my own story, and I could change something I previously believed was an inborn trait, destined to follow me my entire life. What’s even more awesome is that all of the concepts I learned while lying still on my mat could be carried with me out of the studio and practiced in real life. Serenity does not come easily everyday, but I feel emotionally and mentally more at peace. I also had it all wrong about willpower: I did not need more of it, I needed to let more things go. Instead of trying to control my thoughts or refrain from acting compulsively, I try to do a little bit of meditation instead, or will read a few pages from the Bhagavad Gita. I love my new outlook on life. Today, I will be patient and stop trying to force what I want and when I want it (which is always right now and ten minutes ago) to happen at an unnatural pace. After all, they say good things happen to those who wait.

 

By: Alice Jennings (G+)