My current job has a drastically different work environment than my last, so far it's been for the better and I don't see it getting any where near as bad as where I was working. I'm finding it much easier to leave work at work, I like what I'm doing, and my stress level is significantly lower. A lower stress level seems to be the biggest change in my life with my new job, and it has changed my practice. When I started practicing yoga two and a half years ago it was all about trying to let go of the stress that built up every week, trying to leave work at work, a new and fun way to mix up my workout routine, and trying to get out of my own head for 90 minutes. Yoga was all about letting go of the day/week, stress relief, and self-care. There are still elements of letting go and self-care in my practice, but I've found my practice is much more peaceful now, I'm more connected to my body, and it's become more spiritual. My intention has become to just enjoy those 90 minutes and see what my body can do, and what I need to spend a little more time caring for in the next few days.
Not pushing myself to let go and destress has made my practice so much more peaceful. I don't have to spend as much time trying to get into the right mindset for class, trying to let go, or trying to get out of my head. Work is at work, and I can let my mind go blank or focus on whatever I'm trying to figure out in my personal life. I'm not as crabby when I practice which provides a clearer headspace to kick my practice off with. After I get my mat all set up I stretch a little and meditate on my intention for that practice. Sometimes my intention is a mantra or a quote I'm focusing on, and sometimes my intention is to just make it through class without falling over or staying in child's pose or corpse pose the whole time (both are valid intentions and options during practice if that's what you need).
My goal has become to find peace through my practice, and to spread that peace through my life.
I'm much more focused on what my body is telling me; are my ankles sore, is my lower back out of whack again, have I been sitting on my right hip too much, how is the tension in my shoulders, are my wrists correctly positioned so they won't ache tomorrow, etc.? It's so much more internal, it's about getting to know myself again which goes back to my intention for this year of "Slow down and chill out." This is a year that I'm being a little more selfish with my time, I'm using more of it on me and the things I want to do because I'm figuring out who I am again after years of being away from myself.
I struggled to connect my faith to my practice at first. Yoga does have a spiritual element to it, and it took me a little while to connect my Christian faith to those aspects. I incorporate prayer, either at the beginning or by thinking about someone who needs a little encouragement/love at that time. Some practices my intention/mantra is a verse, or a concept, or sometimes I choose to just be still and listen. More and more I've been choosing to clear my mind and be still.
I think this is one of the most beautiful things about yoga; as you change your practice changes with you. It can be in the small things from practice to practice, week to week, or month to month as you get stronger or come back from an injury. It changes as your life changes in the big ways and the small ways. Your practice meets you where you are and pushes you to go just a little further, to try something new, and to keep practicing. There are a variety of styles too that suite your wants and needs. I decided on hot vinyasa after researching the different classes that were provided in my area. My joints aren't so good, so the heated room helps with stretching and makes it a little easier (and means less aches) for me. I also enjoy a good sweat, which vinyasa provides even without a heated room. (Vinyasa yoga means a continuous flow of poses and postures with lots of push ups, squats, and lunges hidden in the flow).
I don't practice yoga because it's trendy, or because I need to validate my wearing yoga pants on a daily basis; I practice yoga because I like how it makes me feel physically and mentally. As my practice has become less of an escape I feel like it's become more authentic to me, and more a part of who I am. When I practice my eating disordered brain goes quiet and I see what my body can do, how far I can push it, where I've improved and am ready to start trying to practice the next modification to a pose. I'm not self conscious about being clad only in my sports bra and capris (I tried wearing a shirt my first hot class, it ended up drenched with sweat and I was super uncomfortable so I stopped wearing one during class), or the sweat dripping out of every pore. My brain is occupied with how amazing my body is, seeing all the things it can do now and the things it will do as I learn and practice more.
Yoga isn't just about training my body, I'm training my brain which effects my mental and emotional health. For example, I have a love/hate relationship with downward dog. I hate holding it as a resting pose because my wrists feel like they're going to give out by breath number 3, but it's the pose where I learned I don't have chunky thighs and I love it for that. This showed me how much my physical, mental, and emotional health tie together, and how intertwined they are. I've been more aware that when one is out of balance or a little off the other two often shift that way as well, and if I work on fixing the balance everything goes right again. That's the focus of this journey I started to get fit. It started almost four years ago with a focus on my physical health as I started strength training, and has ended up changing every aspect of my life in ways I never expected.