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5 Lessons I Learned About Life from Studying Yoga for Over 20 Years

Katy Kvalvik

Health, Wellness, & Safety

5 Lessons I Learned About Life From Yoga

I started studying yoga about 20 years ago when I was competing in triathlons because I had no flexibility in my body. Basically, when I tried to reach to my toes, I would get to about my knees with my hands. So if you can relate to that, just to let you know there’s hope because I’ve been able to open my body over the years, and have more flexibility.

I continued to practice yoga, and then about 10 years ago I was in two consecutive accidents where I had to rebuild my whole entire body, and yoga was a big part of how I healed. I was able to go deeper into the philosophy and the different layers of Yoga. So let me share the five lessons that I’ve taken away.

#1 Breathe with your whole being.

Yoga means to yoke. It’s yoking the body, mind and spirit, and going from duality to oneness. So connecting on all levels, and the basis of that is our breath, and our Pranayama, creating that. Most people don’t breathe that well. What we need to do is drop our breath into our belly, and then also do this thing that I call a 360-degree breath.

When we’re breathing with our whole body, this will help us be more present and in the moments. If you slow down and think about it, being present is the only reality that we really have. It’s about being present in the now. So definitely breathing with your whole being is a big lesson to learn.

#2. Master the basics and master transitions.

So I have studied with a lot of teachers and masters, and it’s very consistent across the board. Whenever there’s an issue, whenever we’re confused about things, go back to the basics and master the basics. We’ve got to have a solid foundation, so that we can build the house.  We are like a tree the deeper the roots, the more we can express. It’s really important in the beginning not to try to do everything at once, but to master the basics.

In asanas, it’s doing a vinyasa of five poses and doing that a hundred times. It’s doing this repetition over and over until you see what’s going on, so that you can start building off that. And then once you learn some sequences, it’s really about transitions and having awareness of transitions.

So for instance, in yoga when you’re stepping down on the mat, are you slapping the mat or you gracefully putting your foot down? This is kind of a metaphor for life. How are you going in and out of events and experiences in your life? Are you stressed? How much awareness do you have of coming in and coming out and creating that flow that we’re looking for.

#3. Repetition, practice, discovery and layers.

It’s all about repetition. It’s practicing, practicing, practicing the journey over and over. We have this external idea that we’re going to make things work. But it’s really all about the practice. Every single day I’m practicing—I’m meeting myself where I’m at, and then also discovering these deeper layers. It’s amazing when we can have this open mind, this curiosity, how the layers come in and we discover these deeper connections that we’re really looking for.

#4. One foot in front of the other.

Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and training the mind. This is about awareness and really being able to focus on being present. It’s a focus on taking one step first before the next step, instead of trying to get everything right all at once, and trusting the process.

We tend to experience what I call the shiny blinking thing that constantly distracts us. We can train the mind to just look at one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other, in order to start having control and really being able to focus, so that we’re not constantly distracted from our path by texts and emails and whatever new great thing is happening. It’s really about coming back to being able to focus and just do one thing at a time.

#5. Don’t try to change everything at once.

Any change in the body is stressful. We have to slow down and just take one step at a time. It’s amazing how much you can learn in three to six months when you do this. You’ll discover a consciousness and awareness that allows you to complete the task confidently and competently.

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Katy Kvalvik

Katy Kvalvik is a certified executive coach, creator of the Harmony Method®—a blueprint for work-life harmony, and founder of Southwestern Empowerment, a company that provides personal and professional development services to transform and inspire today’s leaders. Katy is a graduate of UC Berkeley as well as a board-certified health counselor, certified trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), certified yoga instructor, and business mentor. If you would like to learn more about Southwestern Empowerment or speak with Katy about doing a customized training session for your company, organization, or team, please email [email protected].