“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela
The above quote really hit home for me when, last year, I led a yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico at a resort literally next door to a resort where I took my first teacher training in 2002 (pictured above). I actually didn’t realize my resort was right next door until I got there the first day, took a walk out to the beach and looked down the beach about 500 yards. I saw the familiar huts of Maya Tulum and gasped. I found it quite funny that I had no idea what was around Maya Tulum; in fact for the entire week I was there, I never left the immediate area of the resort, so how would I have known what was down the street?!
In that moment, I felt the emotion contained in the above quote by Nelson Mandela. I felt that the beach had not changed at all; not to the eye at least. Not in all the years that had passed. By boy, had I changed. I felt the weight of time passing. I’ll be honest; I felt sad. I felt regret for some things and sadness for others. At the same time though, I felt a sense of pride for all that I had accomplished in those 14 years.
In my latest book, “Structure and Spirit: Moving Smarter Both On and Off the Mat,” I share a number of different anatomical themes but also a whole series of chapters on spiritual themes. I love teaching anatomy and focusing on that in teaching but we can’t deny the impact of the spiritual side as well. The concept of growth, or personal growth, is something that shows up on the mat and off the mat as well and is a perfect concept to dive into when we want to learn more about who we are and what makes us tick.
What is Personal Growth?
I consider personal growth to be the shift of one’s condition to a more desired state. You wouldn’t consider moving from a more desired state to a less desired state to be personal growth. It assumes that you’ve either done some work, done some soul searching or perhaps taken on a new challenge in order to shift your way of being from one state to a better one.
Areas of personal growth can include:
- changing your mindset
- becoming more motivated
- becoming more mindful
- learning how to love yourself
One aspect of yoga practice that is a fairly universal opportunity for growth is the development of mindfulness. Unless you’re in class holding your breath, chances are you’re feeling the calming, positive impact on your nervous system that comes from deep breathing.
In the process of writing my book, I reached out to several other yoga teachers on this topic of growth and asked them to write a passage outlining a time in their life when they felt life was pushing them outside their comfort zone. I’ll share a brief piece from some of their stories here:
Alice Riccardi, Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher
“The biggest challenge with growth is that it isn’t always about “getting it” and then “having it,” like it’s a done deal. That kind of growth is linear, like a timeline upon which we can tick off our transformations like trophies.”
Amber Bevilacqua Gregory, Registered Yoga Teacher
Amber begins her writing by sharing the story of her breast cancer diagnosis and how she found out she had cancer. She then writes, “Yes, I beat the cancer and also grew emotionally. I survived. I had been stripped of my physical self: hairless, no eyebrows, no eyelashes…it was all gone. Surgery scars and discoloration from radiation still reside. But despite it all, I learned to love myself on the inside because it was still “me” staring back in the mirror.”
Christie Rosen, Wellness Coach and Yoga Teacher
“My yoga journey taught me not to just look for outward improvement and growth, but to value inner growth and subtle change. When you prioritize the subtle awareness, which in essence is the yoga, the opportunity for growth is truly endless.”
Read more about their personal stories in my book.
At the end of each chapter, I ask the reader some questions around the theme of the chapter. I’ll share some of them with you here:
- Areas in my life where I’ve grown most are
- Making a shift in my personal development is easy/hard/because
- The biggest area I’d like to change is
- What is holding me back from making this change is
Change is never easy but we know it’s part of life. The idea is to keep moving with it, not fight it and always be looking for ways to move with the flow of change.
If you’d like to read more this and the topics of anatomy in yoga, you can pick up my book here.
If you’d like a free download on yoga anatomy, please visit my website and download the 3-PDF pack on the home page, www.barebonesyoga.com.
Thanks for reading!