100 Lessons From 100 Yoga Classes

100 lessons from 100 yoga classesA little more than a year ago, a friend asked me to join her for a free outdoor yoga class in the city. I reluctantly agreed, stopped at Target, picked up a cheapie yoga mat and went to class.

I didn’t have too many expectations. After all, I was nearly three years into my healthy living journey and completely obsessed with running. I didn’t think yoga would be a “real workout” and thought it would be a waste of time that I could be spending otherwise.

(Clearly, I was wrong.)

Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed that free outdoor class and slowly began adding yoga into my fitness routine. After a few more weeks of free classes and $6 classes at my local Whole Foods, I decided to get a bit more serious and cashed in on a LivingSocial deal to a local hot yoga studio last fall.

One class in and I was hooked.

A few weeks ago, I took my 100th hot yoga class. It was a personal milestone, a moment of pride and a reminder of just how much yoga has changed me…and more importantly, taught me, in less than one year.

Yoga has changed everything for me. It has made me more confident, strong and balanced. It has taught me a new way of looking at the world…and at my own life. It has energized me, humbled me and reminded me that truly anything is possible with patience, practice and confidence.

*Thank you so much to the incredible yoga teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn from, be inspired by and practice with at DHY: Julia, Steph, Lisa, Jess, CJ, Cicelee, Kelsie, Noelle, Alex, Kate and Rachel.*

Here are 100 lessons from 100 yoga classes. Some life-changing, some silly, some quotes from class that inspire me, some serious…all gleaned from 100 classes of an ancient practice still beloved by millions today.

1. Leave your comfort zone to find new comfort zones. Clearly this lesson resonates with me the most as getting gutsy is all about stepping out of your comfort zone (and just look at the quote underneath my blog header). However, I LOVE the idea behind this theme from yoga class- when you leave your comfort zone, you FIND new ones. Doing something new can be scary, but eventually that becomes your new norm and you must continue to push yourself even further.

2. Let go of anything that no longer serves youYoga is all about getting rid of the negative and embracing the positive. At the beginning of class, a teacher once reminded us to let go of any part of our day that no longer served us in the present moment.

3. Be where you are today. Staying in the present moment is not always easy for me, so I love yoga’s reminder to just be exactly where you are today with no judgement.

4. Breathe. The most important part of yoga is remembering to breathe and to let your breath guide you through challenging poses. Teachers often urge yoga students to, “come back to your breath” and it’s a reminder I try to carry with me even outside of class.

5. Take child’s pose. Child’s pose is a place of rest…a place to come to when you need to breathe and refocus. I’ve learned that child’s pose is not a sign of weakness; instead it’s a sign of knowing your body and honoring it.

6. It’s okay to fall on your face. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Sure, you may fall on your face, but we all fall before we succeed.

7. Practice non-attachment. Why get attached to or beat yourself up over a pose that’s challenging? Similarly, why get attached to situations in life? Practicing non-attachment is a big part of yoga that I’m working on bringing into my daily routine.

8. Faster isn’t always better. As my one core-work loving yoga teacher (hi Julia!) always says, “faster isn’t always better.” Take poses and exercises slow to focus on your form and do things right.

9. Progress, not perfection. Striving for perfection is useless. There is no such thing. However, there is always, always, always room for progress.

10. “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

11. Props are your friend. In class we often use blocks and straps to help make difficult poses more accessible. At first I wanted to do everything without props to prove that I could do it on my own, but quickly learned that props are important for helping you find the right posture without injuring yourself.

12. Embrace modifications. Often in class, a teacher will provide modifications to make a pose more restorative or more challenging. Find the place that works for you today.

13. “Clear space in your life to expand your possibilities.”

14. Choose trust over fearTrust that good things will happen…because really, who chooses fear?

15. Everyone has a “good” side and a “bad” side. One side of your body is always different than the other- we are not perfectly balanced and that’s okay.

16. Drink a lot of water. Especially in hot yoga. Before, during and after class.

17. Come to hot yoga for the exercise, but find yourself and your spirit in the process. I came to hot yoga with the intention of sweating my butt off to hopefully lose more weight. Sure, that has happened, but in the process I found myself and found a deeper reason to practice yoga.

18. Chanting “om” just feels good, even if it feels a little weird at first. Like I mentioned above, when I first started yoga, I told myself I was going just for the physical benefits. I thought chanting was a little weird and would quietly mumble “om” while everyone belted it out. Now I absolutely love the feeling of “om’ing” and look forward to it.

19. Thank yourself for making time for you. How beautiful- many of my teachers end class by encouraging us to thank ourselves for making time to be on our mats.

20. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. Contrary to popular belief, you DO NOT need to be flexible to do yoga. You simply need to have an open mind and heart. Over time, you will naturally become more flexible.

21. Express gratitude for your body, exactly as it is right now. At the end of each class, my teachers remind me to be grateful to have a body that’s capable of doing yoga. Even if you want to lose weight or tone up or WHATEVER, it’s a beautiful thing to have a body capable of moving and flowing like you do in class.

22. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s so easy to get caught in the comparison trap (totally guilty) but your yoga practice is about you and you only.

23. Rest when you need to. Everyone is at different places in their practice. If you need to take a moment to rest, go ahead and do so. What a beautiful reminder for our lives, as well. Rest is incredibly important.

24. Feel light. There’s no better feeling than the feeling of being light. Light in body, mind and spirit. At the end of an amazing yoga class, sometimes you experience that incredible (although sometimes fleeting moment, in my case) feeling of lightness.

25. “Yoga meets you where you are.”

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26. When in doubt, watchasana. While comparing yourself in yoga is never good, it’s okay to sit back from a pose and simply watch your neighbors. One of my teachers dubbed this pose, “watchasana.”

27. Challenge yourself. Consider completing a yoga challenge like the one I did back in May. It forced me to try one new yoga pose a day and was fun to track my progress and get to know other yogis participating in the challenge.

28. Find peace in the pose. There will be some poses you simply hate. Instead of thinking about how much you hate them, simply try to find peace and stillness there. Similarly, if there’s something you hate doing at work or  at home, change your thinking and simply don’t attach a feeling to that activity or task.

29. Make new friends. Don’t be afraid to talk to people before or after class. You clearly share similar interests, so you may have more in common than you think.

30. Maybe don’t go to a two-hour hot yoga workshop the day after New Year’s Eve. Literally the worst idea I’ve ever had.

31. “Perfect courage is to do without witnesses what one would be capable of doing with the world looking on.”

32. Open your heart. Some poses in yoga are known as “heart openers” and I truly love that sentiment. Keep an open heart, always.

33. Don’t worry about touching your toes. You’ll become more flexible naturally over time, but yoga is not about being able to touch your toes or contort your body into crazy, twisty positions.

34. Strengthen your core. I had no idea until I started practicing that yoga is really all about core strength. Your core carries you through every pose…so…get to work on those abs!

35. Don’t be afraid to accept help. In class, oftentimes a teacher will walk around and make physical adjustments. At first, as a lifelong teacher’s pet, I didn’t like those adjustments because I thought I was doing something wrong and hated that feeling. Now, I absolutely love adjustments because the teacher is helping me correct my form or get deeper into a pose to fully experience its benefits.

36. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

37. A strong few minutes of savasana is equal to 2-3 hours of sleep. Just learned that the other night in class. So seriously people, clear your minds and reap the benefits.

38. You are exactly where you are meant to be. In this moment, everything is perfect. You are where you are meant to be.

39. Change your perspective. Like literally, change your perspective. For 80 of those 100 classes, I parked my mat in the same exact spot in the room. I’m a creature of habit. After those 80 classes, I decided to change my view of the room and gave the front row a try. Now I’m much more comfortable testing out different spots and seeing how where I physically am in the room changes my practice.

40. When you nail a challenging pose, show it off! Yoga classes are often pretty quiet, but I love when I hear people quietly celebrating nailing a pose or sharing a high five with their neighbor.

41. Practice makes permanent. Practice doesn’t make perfect…instead, it makes permanent. Yoga has helped me to say goodbye to old bad habits and welcome in new, positive ones.

42. Yoga is accessible. Truly anyone can do yoga. Men, women, young people, old people, thin people, heavy people. I love seeing the diversity in my classes…it makes me feel like I can continue yoga for the rest of my life.

43. “It takes darkness & the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”

44. Keep yoga realLet’s keep yoga real. That’s exactly what I tried to do when I showed you all my yoga blooper photos.

45. In hot yoga, you will sweat in places you didn’t know sweat could be. I mean seriously, these classes get H-O-T, especially in the summer months. Sometimes I don’t even understand where all the sweat continues to come from, but there’s nothing more detoxifying than sweating it all out, so embrace it.

46. “Twist your body to untwist your mind.”

47. Namaste. This classic yoga phrases has many meanings. Yoga Journal explains it beautifully here, but I really love that they say the gesture represents that there is a divine spark within each of us.

48. “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

49. Everyone was once a beginner. We all start somewhere. Another good reason not to judge ourselves in our practice.

50. Set an intention. At the beginning of class, we often are encouraged to set an intention to focus on and come back to during difficult moments during that specific practice. I love setting intentions based on what’s happening in my life or what I might be struggling with that day.

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 51. Dedicate your practice to someone else. If you aren’t interested in setting a personal intention, my teachers often encourage us to dedicate our practice to someone else who may need it more than we do.

52. Laugh at yourself. If you fall on your face, laugh! It’s okay. It’s funny. It’s human.

53. Maybe one day… A beautiful sentiment in yoga is that fact that “maybe one day” our foreheads will touch the floor in Humble Warrior (like the top left photo above) or we’ll pop into a handstand with no fear. There is so much hope in yoga and the possibilities are endless.

54. Listen to your body. In yoga, you get to know your body very intimately. It’s important to listen to the cues your body gives you and to honor that.

55. Feel rooted to the earth. Much of yoga is about feeling rooted and grounded to the earth. It’s about feeling that connection with something way bigger than yourself.

56. Find a community…in real life or online. If you practice at a studio, naturally you meet other passionate yogis. If you don’t, turn to social media! The yoga community on Instagram is just amazing.

57. Observe your thoughts. If meditation or yoga turn you off because you feel you can’t quiet your mind, that’s okay. Often, my teachers encourage us to simply observe our thoughts without judgement, letting them pass by in our heads, but not attaching any feelings to them.

58. If you have the chance, practice at a studio. Free yoga classes are awesome and online videos are great too, but if you have the opportunity to practice in a studio, I highly recommend it. The entire vibe makes class so much more meaningful, at least for me.

59. “Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.”

60. Let go of your ego. Check your ego at the door. Yoga has humbled me so much. It gives me great hope, but also grounds me in reality and the understanding that I am a continuous work in progress.

61. Trust yourself. Yoga teaches you to trust yourself to try challenging poses and test your balance and stability.

62. You don’t need fancy mats or towels to practice yoga. After more than 100 hot yoga classes, I’m still using that cheapie mat from Target and a beach towel to keep me from slipping. Sure, I’m planning to upgrade my mat soon, but that cheapie mat has served me very well for a year. The barrier to entry is very low for yoga.

63. Be still. Sometimes in class, we simply sit quietly with our eyes closed. It’s not easy for me to be still for long periods at a time, but it’s beneficial to get comfortable with.

64. Standing on your head can feel amazingly liberating. The moment I finally nailed a headstand, I felt so much joy. I’ve never been able to do one in my life and I felt so free when I was able to hang out in the pose for a couple of minutes just reaping the benefits of being upside down.

65. Find the space between effort and ease. As we know, yoga is about balance. Sometimes that balance comes from finding a place between effort and ease- where you’re working hard and feeling challenged, but still comfortable and happy in a pose.

66. Bring a towel (or two) to hot yoga. When I go to hot yoga, I generally bring a smaller hand-towel for wiping sweat and a beach towel to use on my mat if it starts to get slippery. There’s nothing worse than not being able to do a pose because you’re slipping all over your mat.

67. Inhale the positive, exhale the negative. Repeat.

68. Poses that once seemed impossible will all of a sudden one day be completely accessible to you. I thought I’d NEVER be able to do a headstand. All of a sudden, one day, I popped into a headstand. It took months, but now I can do it…and continue to do it, wherever I go.

69. On the contrary, some poses may never come easily to you. That’s okay, too. Keep practicing.

70. Experiment. Early in my hot yoga practice, a teacher asked us to try to keep our eyes closed for an entire class to focus on our breath and finding our own pace in the postures. It was extremely uncomfortable for me, but these experiments push us out of our comfort zones to make us stronger.

71. The perfect playlist can make all the difference sometimes. My favorite yoga classes combine a mix of a challenging flow, inspirational quote or theme and a motivating playlist. As a runner, I rely on music during my runs to keep me going, so I always appreciate a good playlist during class. I especially love when I get to hear John Mayer in yoga!

72. Rinse it out. I practice a vinyasa style of hot yoga so in between series, we often “flow through our vinyasa” doing chaturanga pose (so challenging!). To me, this is a chance to let go of whatever we were working on before whether I loved it or hated it and move on with a clean slate to the next pose .

73. Take risks. Try a new pose! Even if it seems difficult or completely out of the realm of what you can do, take a risk and try it anyway. What’s the worst that can happen?

74. Counter pose. Some poses require an appropriate counterpose to get your spine back in a neutral position. Counter poses are important for balance and alignment, but also remind me that in life, when we go too far one way, we often need to come back to get recentered.

75. Flip your practice. Similar to the class where we kept our eyes closed the entire time, a few months ago a teacher had us completely change our perspective in the room by facing the opposite wall. The front row became the back row; the back row became the front row. It felt weird to see things from a different perspective, but was also refreshing.

PicMonkey Collage

76. Push yourself just past the point of comfort. Once you’re comfortably settled in a pose, push yourself a teensy bit forward, just past the point of comfort to find a place where you can further pursue your goals.

77. Link movement with breath. We’ve already discussed how important breathing is in yoga, the vinyasa style of yoga is all about linking your breath with movement. This definitely challenges me, but I like to listen to the cues from my teachers for when to inhale and when to exhale to find that synchronicity with movement and breath.

78. Find a single point of focus. In balancing poses, we’re often encouraged to find a single, non-moving point to focus our gaze on to keep steady.

79. Some poses will be extremely uncomfortable. There are some poses that I absolutely hate (I know, I know, you aren’t supposed to hate things in yoga). I seriously dislike when we practice splits and I also really do not enjoy pigeon pose. These poses make me feel extremely uncomfortable, but I know over time, will get easier (even if I can’t achieve full expression) and will make me a stronger yogi and person.

80. Yoga heals. I vividly remember one really bad day I had this past winter. I had a rough day at work, I felt overwhelmed and things were not going my way. I didn’t really feel like going to yoga, but I forced myself to go because no matter how bad a day I’m having, yoga has healing powers and I always walk out of the studio feeling better than when I came in.

81. Feel like a Warrior. Some of my favorite (and most challenging poses) are the Warrior series. How can you not feel amazing in a pose that is all about strength and poise?

82. Exercise control. Yoga helps you gain control of your body. There are times when we’re asked to use our core control to slowly come out of a pose or to lower ourselves to the ground. It’s easier said than done, but yoga helps us gain that control.

83. Smile. You’re at yoga. It’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s peaceful. It’s not so serious. Smile and have fun.

84. Practice with different teachers. I love that my yoga studio has a roster of different teachers with different styles. I’ve practiced with more than 10 different teachers and I have things I love and respect about each of them. Some classes are more physical where some are more spiritual. I like that each time I go to class, I’m in for something different.

85. Get to class early. I pretty much go everywhere early; it’s in my nature, but I especially like getting to yoga early to find a good spot in the room and settle in before class. It’s a relaxation zone for me, so it’s nice to have a few minutes before class begins to get in the right state of mind.

86. It’s your practice. My favorite thing about yoga that differs from other types of exercise classes is that while my yoga teachers push us past our comfort zones, they also remind us that it’s our own practice and we can do what we want with it. I’m not a huge fan of yelling in fitness classes and I’ve never experienced that in yoga. If you want to lay on your mat the entire time in class, go for it, it’s your practice.

87. Yoga is good for your health. I think it goes without saying, but yoga has serious health benefits. Don’t believe me? Here are 38 different ways yoga affects your health in a positive way.

88. Bring your thumbs to third eye center. Before we close class, we bring our thumbs to the center of our forehead, the spot of the third eye…of intuition. It’s also associated with creativity, dreaming and imagination.

89. Take it to your deepest place. Toward the end of holding a pose, the teacher encourages students to take the pose to its deepest place…the spot where you feel the most challenged. This is an excellent reminder to constantly push ourselves to try new things.

90. We tend to hold a ton of emotions in our hips. It sounds weird at first, but apparently we hold a ton of emotion in our hips. That’s why sometimes in yoga, you literally may feel like you want to cry. But when we do these poses and let go of that emotion, we can become stronger.

91. Notice what you notice. Similar to observing your thoughts without judgement, sometimes you need to just notice what you notice about yourself, your body and your practice without attaching any kind of negative or position emotion to it.

92. It’s all about the journey, not the destination. The perfect metaphor for life, yoga is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about what happens along the way and how it changes and moves you.

93. Disconnect. Yoga is one of the only places I actually disconnect from the rest of the world. It’s probably the only time in the day that my phone is more than an arm’s length from my body. Sometimes that feels completely liberating.

94. Celebrate the small wins. Did you hold crow pose for .2 seconds? Cause for celebration! The small wins add up to be the big things.

95. Be kind to yourself. Simply that; just be kind to body, mind and spirit. You’re doing the best that you can and that’s all you can really ask of yourself.

96. Yoga inspires. I can’t tell you how many posts on this very blog have been inspired by something I learned or realized in class.

97. “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” 

98. Find balance. In yoga, we often balance on one leg; it can be frustrating when you can’t find that ideal balance, but if you fall out, just try again.

99. “The light in me honors the light in you.” Each class closes with this perfect, simple statement.

100. Yoga has no end. You will never be PERFECT at yoga. There is no end and there is always room for continuous improvement and progress.

Here’s to 100 more yoga classes and beyond!

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  • I love that you found 100 lessons from yoga! As a fairly new yogi myself, all of them are true! I was very much opposed to my first hot yoga class but much like you, I loved it and now go regularly. It truly is a place to let go and breathe. Amazing how hard it can be to do that sometimes. I find that mixing yoga with running, Zumba and swimming has given me the perfect balance of exercise. Thanks for sharing Jess – going to borrow some of those quotes too!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Yay! Thank you, Alex!

      I’m so glad you are liking yoga so far! Good to hear you’re enjoying the hot classes too! It is SO challenging.

      I need to find a better balance between my workouts. I miss the benefits of running, but am really loving going to yoga super regularly. I haven’t been to Zumba in awhile and kind of miss it!

  • Jessica, fantastic article! ! You completely captured it! I totally love that you got so many of DHY’s amazing teachers quotes in one spot, they are all so inspirational but I can never remember them exactly after class. =)

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you so much, Maria! So happy to be connected on Facebook now, too! 🙂

      I love all the DHY teachers- so much inspiration and so many amazing quotes. I usually spend savasana trying to remember something someone said and then jot it down in my phone immediately to Google and find the word for word quote later 🙂 Prob. not the best use of savasana. See you in class soon!

  • Holy Moly – You came up with 100! Well, if that isn’t inspiration then I don’t know what is. Tonight I will do Prenatal Yoga. I know my body needs it. I’ve been thinking about doing it and always feeling too tired to actually plug it in. But, tonight I will 🙂 Thanks chica.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      I did! Whew…100 things is A LOT to come up with. Much harder than I thought when I brainstormed this post.

      How did prenatal yoga go? I hope you loved it! xo

  • Wow great list! Can’t believe you came up with 100 for one post – simply awesome!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks so much, Kelsey! Hope as a teacher you found some of these useful!

  • Good god, woman! You’re incredible! Things I learned from you: 1) You don’t have to be flexible. Good, because I’m not! 2) Emotion in your hips?! No wonder mine are tight! 3) All of my “but…” excuses for not trying yoga are completely normal for a newbie. Which means I should just try it! 4) You’re badass. Well I already knew that but this solidified it 😉

    Congrats on 100 and 100+ more!

    PS – How do you SEE through all of the sweating?!?? My face is a waterfall two minutes into any sort of activity. Do you have a personal sweat-wiper hottie at your side?

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Aw, thank you!

      YES, you do not need to be flexible…and yes, YOU NEED to try yoga ASAP. I think you will really like it!

      Gah, I don’t know! The sweat luckily seems to avoid my eyes (? for the most part, I think) but just continues to drip, drip, drip. I totally need a personal sweat-wiper hottie…where do I get me one of those?!

      • the internet? You can find anything (or apparently anyone) online! ha! 🙂

        • Jessica Lawlor

          That’s the truth! 😉

  • These lessons are so great, Jess! I’m amazed that you came up with 100 and they’re all so insightful and valuable. I haven’t been able to get in to yoga (yet), but I love how applicable nearly everything you wrote is to life. I’ll return to this list again and again.

    Congratulations on reaching 100! Here’s to many more 🙂

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you so much, Jenna! I’m amazed I was able to come up with 100 too! I’m so happy you found them all insightful 🙂

      Give yoga another try if you thought it wasn’t for you- I thought it wasn’t for me for years…until my friend forced me to give it another try.

      xo

  • This is great! I just started doing hot yoga and I like it a lot too. Maybe someday I’ll have 100 lessons from my practice.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks! I’m so excited to hear that you’ve started hot yoga and enjoy it 🙂 You’ll definitely pick up a ton of lessons along the way!

  • Wow! 100 lessons is a lot! I learned a lot with this post. I’ve never tried yoga, but I want to do it. After reading this post I think I’m going to do it soon! 🙂

    • Jessica Lawlor

      I’m so glad you learned from this post. 100 was a lot to come up with, but I truly have learned so much from yoga. I’d definitely encourage you to try it out- and let me know your thoughts!

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  • I consider myself a “lifetime beginner” in yoga. Every sunday morning I meet a couple friends at my favorite yoga studio, for the “church of yoga and coffee.”
    I love this post. So many of the lessons you mentioned are the things I try to work on both in yoga and life. My day definitely goes better when I start with a short practice. I’ve now been working with the same teacher for over 9 years.
    Huzzah for you!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      I LOOOOVE that: “the church of yoga and coffee.” Amen to that 🙂

      Wow- 9 years! That’s incredible. Isn’t it awesome when you find a teacher you truly connect with? I love all the teachers at my studio- it’s fun to experience their different styles.

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  • I love yoga! I haven’t been able to go for around six months because of a leg injury and it’s driving me mad! All of your lessons are spot on. I can’t wait to get back. I’ve been taking a meditation class in the meantime.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      I’m sorry you haven’t been able to go to yoga! I would be going crazy if I were you. Hope the meditation is going well- that’s something I’ve always found very challenging! Good for you.

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