Back when I was in my last year of middle school, and during the first year of high school, I went to yoga once a week with my friend Fiona and both of our moms every Thursday.
We had a badass, incredible, beautiful-from-the-inside-out teacher who I looked up to and adored, and got to be silly while we made fun of the adults exhaling like lions and actually saying “namaste” at the end of class…obviously we were the coolest kids on the block.
While our moms were absolutely in love with yoga, Fiona and I were pretty good and had tons of fun at yoga together, but were never really that into it. We didn’t breathe with our bodies, always cracked up while we were in happy baby, and could barely sit still in savasana. Our commitment to yoga was basically a commitment to our love for our instructor, and love of goofing off together.
Once our instructor left to pursue massage school, both Fiona and I and our moms were left feeling abandoned and yoga just wasn’t the same after that. Our Thursdays stopped being Yoga-days, and over time I just kind of forgot about picking it up again.
Well, after years of an on-again-off-again relationship with yoga that was pretty much centered around finding youtube videos that were short enough for me to concentrate without getting frustrated that I’m not automatically a yoga baller, I have FINALLY fell in love.
I now have experienced the “yoga light,” why people are so devoted, so addicted even to yoga and all the benefits. Maybe it’s cause I’m older, maybe it’s cause I’m wiser, or maybe it’s just because I don’t have my pal beside me to make me laugh in the funny poses. I faced my fears, joined a studio, and ventured to my first real-life class since I was 14…and it was incredible.
So since email is down at work, and all I want to do is toss my responsibilities out the window in the name of TGIF, here’s some reasons why I’m pumped about committing to my yoga practice.
- You Get Stronger. Though I’m very fit, am a passionate runner and exercise enthusiast, I would not consider myself “strong.” Yes, I can run 20 miles at a time and bust out a heart-thumping, hour-long nonstop insanity session and revel in every minute of it, but I am notoriously scrawny in my upper body and can barely manage a push-up. I despise strength training though I know the benefits of it. But when you do yoga, you build strength through elongation, through flexibility, through tapping into your body, not fighting it. I’ve found that when I remove the “you can do its” from my mind, and instead just focus on how my body feels, I am usually pleasantly surprised with the results. I can finally do chatarungas, hold crow poses, and am even on my way to doing hand stands. It takes practice and determination, and most importantly, being patient with yourself and listening to your body, but yoga will help you reach new levels of strength, both physically and mentally, that lifting weights just doesn’t satisfy.
- You escape from the cage of your own mind. This is an aspect of yoga I was never able to tap into until recently. I am a multi-tasking freak with a mind that flies a mile a minute, and turning off my stress while tuning into my body and soul was never something I could manage for more than 30 seconds. Since I rejuvenated my yoga practice, I have finally seen the light of releasing myself from the cage that is my own mind. When I step on the mat, I immediately focus on what my body is doing, and how I can focus on moving with my breath. The only voice I let in is my instructor’s voice. When I focus on just my body, my breath, and my mentor for the class, I lose myself while rediscovering myself in a whole new way. By the end of the practice, I’m sweaty, loose, open, and most importantly, I am calmer than I was before I walked into the studio, and this calmness stays with me through the rest of my day or night. By turning inward, the thoughts that crowd my mind no longer seem truly important. As a result, I am also more humble, more appreciative for the body that allows me to contort, strengthen, and lengthen, and even more appreciative for the soul it houses.
- You become a part of a community. Though I am all for doing yoga online with free classes or web memberships and such, it is so worth the money to join a studio. Not only do you get the hands-on adjustments from your instructor, and the fellowship of other yogis at all different levels with all different strengths and weaknesses, when you go to a real-life class, you cannot just abandon it when you feel like grabbing a snack or don’t “feel like it” anymore. (I’ve done this countless times while doing my youtube classes). When you go to a studio, you are able to focus and lock yourself into your commitment to your body and your practice. Usually, it’s this commitment that is lacking for me when I do youtube yoga. Joining a studio keeps you committed, engaged, and since you spent the money, coming back for more. Do some research and find a studio around you that is affordable (at least kinda affordable), find a studio doing a free community class and stop in to check it out (that’s how I found my studio!), and check out studio web sites to see which have the most accessible classes for you.
Now I know I literally just bought a membership at a local studio and am in the beginning phases of my yoga journey, but these are just some benefits I’ve experienced already, and they’re the core reasons why I will keep coming back for more.
Namaste lovely people!