“If you practice yoga once a week, you will change your mind. If your practice yoga twice a week, you will change your body. If you practice yoga every day, you will change your life.” ~ unknown
When I first started yoga I was searching for ways to better manage my stress levels and read a number of articles that said yoga helps reduce stress and anxiety. So I started taking a class at a nearby studio once a week. I would walk in and feel like this one class would solve all of my anxiety woes. But I would leave class dissatisfied. And not because it was a terrible waste, but because I still found myself stressed the moment I got home.
During class, I could barely concentrate. My mind would wander throughout the hour; what should I make for dinner tonight? Oh crap, I never sent out that email…I should do it as soon as I get home. Is my phone on silent? What if my mom calls…these people would get pissed. Why can’t I touch my toes like that girl? Do I look weird doing this? Ugh…what time is it?
After a couple of weeks, I didn’t feel much of a difference and hadn’t noticed any progress. I would look around the room and see a bunch of weirdos. People who breathed way too loud or looked like they were in some sort of trance. Who were these people? They were so flexible, though, and could hold a pose like a rock…everything looked so effortless for them. Do I have to be a weirdo to be good at yoga?
I continued attending and thought I just needed more time to really get into it.
A Little Change Of Heart
“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” ~ Dr. Seuss
I later moved to a different town and joined a different studio. But this time, there was something different about it. I didn’t notice why at first, but I started enjoying the classes a lot more. I thought, Great! Yoga is finally working! And before I knew it, I could touch my toes!
I soon realized it was the teacher that made all the difference for me. Her energy, her voice and focus, the pace of the class. All of these factors inspired me to view yoga differently. I was starting to understand it more. One class per week quickly turned into 2 classes. And later 3. (I mention this because if you’re not satisfied with your first experience, try a different class, different teacher, different environment…don’t be so quick to give up, find what works for you.)
Once I started to appreciate it more, I wanted to learn more about yoga. Because when I started, it seemed like a fad. There were always new diet and fitness trends, what set yoga apart from anything else? So I began studying the origin, ordered books that discussed the benefits of each pose, the breath, the meanings. And I tell you this, not because I’m recommending you do all of this research as well, but to get into what I’ll say next…
Sharing My Findings…
“We stop waiting to become as soon as we realize we already are” ~ Sonya Renee Taylor
Yoga requires all of your focus. Your entire mind, body, and soul. The mind must be completely focused on the breath and on the movements otherwise, your posture may be compromised. When you begin thinking about work, daily stresses or even just worried about how you look, you are losing focus on the moment. It still happens to me from time to time, especially when trying to balance an inversion. If I think about anything else but the pose, I lose balance and fall.
Every muscle, every fiber, and every thought go into yoga. Each movement is done with purpose and meaning; you’re not just stretching, you’re not just standing with your leg extended. And this is what most people are afraid of. This is what I was afraid of. Letting go of everything happening outside of myself to focus solely on what I am doing. And it’s not even about being able to do a split or a handstand. It’s truly about letting go and connecting with yourself.
If you’re afraid of doing a pose because you think you’ll look silly or you think you will fall, that is when you know you should do it! That is when you’ll begin to stretch your boundaries and that is when you will begin to let go. And you know what? You will fall, many times. But you will never look silly because at least you are trying.
One of the biggest lessons in yoga is to drop the “Ego”. When I used to hear that I would immediately correlate that with being egotistical and arrogant and thought, hey, I’m pretty humble, this will work for me. But I was totally missing the point. It’s about dropping everything that is outside of you. How you feel, what you think you look like, how you think others are looking at you, what you are worried about. And that’s what you have to drop if you really want to appreciate yoga (and life). These “weirdos” weren’t weird at all. They were liberated. They were letting go of everything that was in order to dedicate that moment to what they were currently doing. They gave zero f@*ks.
But let me tell you this. While that teacher did inspire me to look at yoga differently, she wasn’t the one that took the stress away. She wasn’t the one that made me be able to do a forearm stand. I was. She inspired me to do it. But I was the one who opened my mind to it and took it from there. You’ll have to do the same. Don’t expect one or two classes to solve your anxiety or get you to become more flexible. You have to want it too.
For The Love Of Yoga
I think I started enjoying yoga so much because I have a dance background. And some of the moves and flows remind me of a choreographed dance sequence. But the beauty of yoga, is that it’s for everyone. Not just former dancers. When you enter the room you come across young teens, athletes, middle-aged moms, older gentlemen and even fitness buffs. Yoga does not discriminate. In fact, part of its very definition is “joining together”. And best of all, you’re also getting a real workout!
It has taught me so much about myself. And how to have more control of my thoughts and even my actions. I move more fluidly I think more clearly. And if that makes me a weirdo I’ll take it! I notice the way it translates to my personal life which I will discuss in part two. I can talk about this stuff all day, but I’ll spare you a lengthy post.
If you’re considering yoga that is awesome! If not, I hope you, at least, give it a try one day. 🙂