“When we were finally finished, I was lying in a pool of my own sweat. Yet I remember feeling truly happy and free for the first time in my life. My mind cleared, my breathing deepened, a soft smile crossed my lips, and a pulsing sensation arose in the base of my spine and traveled all the way up to the top of my head. My soul seemed to have an answer to questions it had been asking for years. My heart felt at home in my own skin.” – Kino MacGregor in the introduction of her book The Power of Ashtanga Yoga. I hadn’t even gotten to page one and it was as if the author was writing about my first experience with yoga.
I’ve had multiple friends inquire about my interest in yoga recently since posting a few pictures of goals I’ve accomplished on Facebook. Questions like how I got started, why I got started, where I practice, what programs I follow, etc. It’s funny because not too long ago I was asking someone else those same questions.
I tell them, I started yoga ultimately because I was drawn to the poses. I was in gymnastics when I was younger and was very flexible. Back then, had I been introduced to yoga, I’m confident there wouldn’t have been many poses I couldn’t do. As I approach the big 30, I guess you could say I’m having a mini midlife crisis. I’ve always made fitness and health a priority so yoga was initially intended to be another outlet for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I started out attending a yoga class my gym offers once a week. I liked it. It was pretty basic coming in as a beginner. I quickly picked up the basic beginner poses like warrior I,II, and III, down and upward facing dog, plank and so on. Pretty much anything with both feet on the ground, I was good to go. But after a few weeks, I wanted more. I needed more challenge. I skipped going to class for a couple weeks. When I went back, it was like the instructor had read my mind. She finally introduced new poses and pose modifications adding various degrees of difficulty. That was the first day I gave crane pose a try. Which looks something like this:
At first, I was shocked that I was even able to get my feet off the ground. Then, I heard the instructor say, “and for those of you who want more challenge, try tapping your toes together.” About that time, I leaned a little too far forward and almost collided face first with the wood floor. Fortunately, I have catlike reflexes (I’m a mom, I have to) and was able to catch myself with a loud “thud!” of my hand meeting the floor first. Thought to myself, well… that was embarrassing. But I’ve learned it takes falling to learn to keep your balance. So, I tried again playing it a little safer the second time. Later that week, I practiced the crane pose at home. Next time in class, I held it the entire 30 seconds. Then, mentally patted myself on the back. It was such a rewarding feeling to have accomplished what seemed impossible a week earlier. From there, I moved onto handstand poses. This one to be specific:
Eventually, I started going to yoga at my gym twice a week. The second class was taught by a different instructor and I was pleasantly surprised I liked her better. She put even more variety into her class. She also brought more to the table than just poses and a work out. She taught breathing and posture, and sort of introduced the spirituality of yoga; being present and focusing your attention to that moment. She explained, nothing that happened earlier that day or anything that may happen in the future is as important as the moment at hand. It was then that I took the most away from practicing yoga. I have a very busy mind and yoga calmed it. I felt any stress and anxiety from the day melt away as if being pushed out with every exhale. With every inhale, I imagined breathing in happiness, love and contentment. I left class feeling lighter. Each breath came and went easier. My mind was more at ease instead of pacing through the day’s events. There really are so many benefits to yoga aside from toning your body.
I have since set goals for flexibility and poses I’d like to accomplish. I researched getting certified to become an instructor, only to learn it would cost me an arm and leg (so that will have to wait just a bit.) I decided I’d self teach. I went to my local library and checked out as many books as I could find relating to yoga and clean eating. I also downloaded an app on my phone which I have since recommended to a few people. It’s called All-in Yoga. It’s $3.99 (and I rarely pay for apps) but has been the best investment. Since my son started soccer, I haven’t been to yoga at the gym in three weeks. That’s just unacceptable. This app has 45 different programs so you can practice yoga at home. It breaks the classes down by level, goal, and duration. Some days I pick a class focused on balance. Some days I go with flexibility/stretching. I like to mix it up and this app is perfect for that. It also has a ridiculous amount of poses and a short video showing you how to do the pose. Great for beginners!
If yoga interests you even to the smallest degree, try it! Don’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself because you’re not familiar with poses. Chances are, if you’re going to a beginner class, you are not the only first timer in there. In fact, 90% of the classes I’ve gone to the instructor asks who is new in the class. Take that opportunity to look around and realize you’re not alone! Additionally, most instructors will tell you which pose to do next and then describe how to move your body to get into that pose. Eventually, you’ll become familiar with the names and find yourself getting into the right position on your own. Lastly, practice practice practice! Don’t be discouraged when your body gives you a gentle reminder that you’re no longer as flexible as you once were. You can get back there. Yoga is excellent for stretching and using your body weight to build muscle. You’ll be long and lean in no time!
Yoga has become near and dear to me so I love that I am able to share my experiences and also that I have inspired friends to give it a try. I hope to be able to follow you on your journey as well!
And an ending blurb from the book previously mentioned that is really inspiring to me, “The practice of yoga is a decision to believe in yourself against all odds. It is a choice you make to walk down a self-empowering path toward your own liberation from suffering. As you train your mind to remain steadfast, you unravel cycles of misery and follow a path that leads toward true freedom.”