Ask Holly Bentley about her all-time favorite teacher, and she'd probably start talking about yoga. The Washington D.C.-based yogi credits the practice for helping her become the person she is today—loving, accepting and always in progress—and giving her the tools to handle any new challenge with grace, from caring for new baby Eloise to taking on Instagram trolls (hint: they've got nothing on her). Holly walked us through how yoga has shaped her with the most impactful lessons she's learned, below.
Striking a Balance in Everyday Life
There’s a correlation between the physical balance I achieve on the mat and the psychological balance I seek to achieve off the mat. I live a very hectic life, so the concept of balance is one that is always front and center for me. Through the years the practicing of asanas and continued learning of yogic philosophy has helped me gain a more inclusive perspective on my life; it helps me cope with the inescapable stresses of daily life by reminding me that balance is a journey, not a destination.
Learning to Breathe
One of my favorites quotes is something along the lines of, “Breathe into difficult days like you do in difficult poses.” The ability to control my breath is hugely beneficial in my life. I take care of many people in my personal and professional life, and it’s important that I practice breath control in order to stay grounded, peaceful and empathetic.
Finding Peace through Patience
I’ve always been a patient person. My disposition is one of understanding and empathy. Yoga has enforced these lessons through teaching me to trust my own life journey and practice for the sake of self-actualization over more ego-driven motivations. Just like the attainment of more advanced asanas, happenings in life will occur in the precise time and place they are meant to.
Discipline is something I carried into my yoga practice when I began and then refined as my practice evolved. I was raised with a background in music and dance, which required a high level of physical and mental discipline at a relatively early point in my life. When I began my yoga practice, I channeled that discipline into practicing my asanas regularly. That commitment has paid off in ways that I would never have guessed when I began. Not only has it shaped me physically, spiritually, and emotionally, but it has also helped me build a platform that has given me opportunities I never would've dreamed of when I began. Seeing how that discipline has paid off has created a positive feedback loop that helps me sustain my practice when aspects of life make it difficult to do so.
Practicing Total Self-Love
Growing up I struggled mightily with issues around self-image and self-acceptance—I was always aware of my size and bought into negative body image dynamics, which impacted me in very deep and fundamental ways. I was never a “small” girl and, and ,despite what I was told, I could never forgive myself for that. I prioritized image over health and suffered most of my life because of that warped perception of beauty. In yoga I found ways to appreciate my body for the incredible vessel that it was and not the shallow idea of what I wanted it to be, whether it was surprising myself with complex asanas I didn’t know I was capable of doing or getting positive feedback on the progress I've made from the amazing community that came along with the practice. Yoga has given me the confidence to accept and love my body without conditions or hesitations. I am human and I still have moments where those same old feelings around my body will surface, but yoga has equipped me with the mental and emotional tools to confront and overcome those feelings by drawing on the strength and conviction I’ve displayed in my practice.
Feeling the love? Follow Holly on Instagram for more life and yoga inspo!