If you think yoga is just not for you, I hope you will listen to my story and consider giving it a try. It truly saved me from myself.
I used to be the biggest skeptic of yoga. I went to one class in college and immediately determined the practice was not for me. I was accustomed to pushing myself to my physical limit and feeling completely exhausted during workouts. My issue was not necessarily my narrow minded view of exercise, but that I considered yoga to be nothing more than a workout option.
Yoga is SO much more than a chance to stretch and work up a little sweat. Yoga is a mindset, a world view, a peace within, a chance to silence your ego, and a moment of peace amidst a noisy world. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point that it’s been a life altering practice for me. I contribute a considerable amount of my eating disorder recovery and progress in managing my autoimmune diseases to practicing yoga.
How I Got Started
I’d love to say I had a spiritual calling to explore my practice, but I began going to my studio as a result of a completely unnecessary Starbucks run during one lunch hour. I was running late for a meeting, but my caffeine addiction at the time was causing a splitting headache. I had overslept that morning, skipped breakfast, and forgot to even resort to the stale office k-cup supply for my caffeine fix. I pulled up to the drive thru speaker and began to robotically rattle off my order. For some inexplicable reason, while neurotically confirming that the barista heard me say almond milk, a sign for a new yoga studio on the building to my right caught my attention. I work in the town where I grew up so I vividly remember that building being a dentist’s office. Funny how much things can change. I made a mental note to google the name of the studio when I got back to my desk. I pulled up their website, saw a $30 for an unlimited 30 days intro offer, signed up, and BOOM… a year later, I now practice five days a week. I even do an abridged flow on my two off days. I also incorporate HIIT workouts and swimming into my fitness routine, but yoga is what keeps me centered. It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy, and it teaches me to embrace being the real me.
Why I Continue to Practice
What got me so hooked on a practice I had successfully avoided for 30 years? I could probably write a book here, but since this is a blog I will start by narrowing it down to the main two reasons, neither of which have to do with the physical aesthetic benefits. I plan to share much more over time.
Why You Should Try Yoga #1 – It puts you in touch with yourself. The Yoga Sutras, a text dating back over 1500 years, describes yoga as a state to be achieved. The yoga student, or “seer” according to the text, “abides in itself, resting in its own Ture Nature, which is called Self-Realization.” Practicing yoga is practicing how to master your mind. The series of poses, called asana, mean nothing if you are not actively engaged in connecting with your thoughts and emotions as you move through them. Yoga taught me how to detach from my ego-driven thoughts and be truly present. I’m no longer afraid to feel my emotions. I let them come, I try not judge myself for having them (still a work in progress), and then I let them go. Doing this releases so much negative energy and makes room for me to just be myself, unapologetically.
Why You Should Try Yoga #2 – It dedicates time for self-care and self-awareness. Making time to devote to self-care was a struggle for me. I was raised in a home where laziness was not tolerated. I am thankful for the work ethic this instilled in me, but I took the lesson a bit too far. Taking a nap if I was exhausted, getting a massage, taking a break in my day to meditate… all screamed “lazy” and “selfish” in my head. The thought of paying for an unlimited yoga studio membership, let alone a wellness seminar, was shot down the second it crossed my mind. My priorities were completely out of whack, and yoga helped me to see that. Today, my daily yoga practice automatically creates time that is dedicated to self-care and self-awareness. Practicing gives you time to connect with your breath, connect with yourself, and detach from the critical, stress inducing thoughts driven by your ego. That voice has gotten so much quieter for me.
Ok, so I said I’d name 2, but I can’t leave out the best 5 minutes of my day… Shavasana. It’s is the sh*t! Have you ever taken a class during which an instructor doesn’t just allow but actually tells you to lay on your back for a meditative state of rest for 5 minutes?? This has kept me from losing it on the worst of days, and I am not sure how I managed without it for so long.
Give It a Try
My recommendation is to look up a few studios and choose the one that feels right for you. I only have one studio nearby that offers hot classes so that’s my default studio, but I try out other places when I can. Each studio has a slightly different energy, aesthetic, and teaching style (which varies based on the instructor). Try at least a couple before determining where you feel the most comfortable practicing.
Also, be sure to try a few different class styles. You might be surprised to find that the class you were doubtful about taking is the style that you enjoy the most. I started by only taking hot and flow classes. A friend recommended trying Yin yoga which I resisted because stretching for an hour felt excessive. Now I go to Yin yoga at least once per week.
Lastly, if you’re not a workout around other people type of person, there are a ton of resources online. Friends at my studio have recommended mat2mat and Gaia for when they travel or can’t make it to class. Give them a shot, and let me know if you find any other good ones out there!