While moving through sun salutations in a yoga class you may have thought you were just doing something good for your body: getting a good stretch, creating more awareness, building endurance as your practice advances. But did you realize that working on those warrior poses was also helping you cultivate many attributes commonly associated with elephants? Here, a list of five of the mammal’s qualities that you may not have realized were being strengthened on your mat.
The elephant, one of the largest and heaviest animals on Earth, is no doubt very strong. And warriors, whether the ones you see on Game of Thrones or the shapes you are making on the mat, require strength. Every warrior pose demands strong legs to keep yogis stable, and when done correctly you will feel just about every muscle in each leg burn (in a “good workout” type of way). An elephant is aware of its own power, and as you continue with your yoga practice you, too, will know when to try something more challenging versus when take Child’s Pose.
Because of elephants’ size they move slowly. Their steps are deliberate, their focus acute, they react to things in a calm manner. That same focus is necessary in yoga moving through each posture to find proper alignment and stay connected to the breath. A warrior must know when to move and when wait. It can be challenging for those newer to yoga to experience patience, but the more you show up, the more you learn, enabling a calmer, more patient demeanor both on and off the mat.
Due to their size and strength, elephants are confident by nature. Warriors must be confident when they go into battle in order to succeed—if you go into anything with a less than positive attitude it’s a struggle to come out on top. The more you show up to class, the more you will understand the proper alignment of the poses. Understanding and feeling strong in the postures will boost your confidence in your practice as well as in real life, helping you to feel capable of anything.
Elephants are extremely mindful creatures, both of the space they take up and the world around them. A warrior, too, must possess this quality in order to survive battle. Yoga helps you to connect with your body, taking the gaze inward to translate your instructor’s verbal cues into your body, requiring focus, to stay in the present moment. Though a physical practice, it is also an awareness practice both of your body and the world around you, enabling you to more cognizant of your actions and how they effect others.
With so many noble attributes that make up elephants’ character, it is no surprise that they are seen as wise creatures. Wisdom comes from knowing when it’s appropriate to use your strength and when to be patient. It comes from being confident enough to know and understand your strong suits, yet not let yourself get cocky about your gifts. It enables you to see the consequences of your actions, both the good and the bad, and decide how best to proceed in any situation. There is so much to learn from these mammoth creatures—thankfully your yoga practice can help you connect with your inner elephant.