I mention yoga quite often when talking about my wellness journey, however, yoga is something I've loved for a long time. My daily practice really began in October, when I decided to find a yoga studio in College Station (and ironically enough, I hurt my back while taking off my socks and shoes at yoga in December). In that first week in October, I excitedly went to yoga every day. I scheduled my day around what class I wanted to go to. I loved it so much!
Earlier this week I felt myself falling away from my routine because like any routine, it's tough. So I thought back to October and my first week at the studio. Excited to try all of the classes in my first week, I unknowingly stepped into a class that would end up challenging me physically and mentally more than anything I had experienced before. The class was 75 minutes in 105° F and 60% humidity. I vividly remember myself in child's pose for much of the class. At one point I even let out a few tears because I didn't know if I could find the strength to stand back up and go on. Call me crazy, but I decided to go to that exact class again.
This time, I still struggled. However, I noticed that I took less breaks in child's pose, I held poses longer and stronger than I had before, and despite the intense heat and humidity, it felt good to challenge myself like that again. I left soaked in sweat, my entire shirt a different shade of grey than when I entered the class. But I was proud of my practice, and proud of myself for overcoming the mental hurdle that held me back for four months.
I think what draws me to yoga is that it is not just about physical strength and ability, but also about mental strength and clarity. Each practice is different, that is why it's called a practice. Some days, as soon as I sit on my mat and set my intention, my mind clears for the hour. Other days, my head is everywhere but on my mat. One day I go in and effortlessly pull my leg above my head in dancer pose, and the next day I wobble as soon as I lift one leg off the ground. It's a continuous practice of strengthening my physical state and my mental state.
I've already led into it a little, but maybe you're still asking, "Why yoga?"
My love for yoga dates back to Mrs. Robley's after school yoga club in high school. Back then I loved that it combined core strength and flexibility, two things I focused on as a gymnast and a dancer. And of course I still love that today. However, another thought just now came to me: I'm very competitive, but I've never been great a sports. The irony, I know. Yoga allows me to practice the strength and flexibility that I enjoy, but never asks me to perform. It's always a practice, therefore I am never let down by the outcome.
Ever since I quit gymnastics in junior high, I've been self-conscious about my body. And since then I think I've tried just about every form of exercise in the book. Finally I realized that no matter what, I see the best results when I have someone guiding me and a group setting to hold me accountable. I accredit that trait to the group training atmosphere during all those years of dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. That is why I love going to a yoga studio. There is a knowledgeable instructor guiding the practice, and a room full of women (and often a few men) with similar goals for their health. Plus, physically going to yoga allows me to get out of my home/office space, step away from the chaos, and enter a space dedicated solely to yoga. When I practice at home, my mind is still on the full sink of dishes or the homework I have to do.
However, the beautiful thing about yoga is that you CAN practice anywhere. In the mornings I roll out my mat in the living room, on the front porch, patio, or literally wherever I feel inspired. And on busy days that I can't make it to a full hour long practice, I have the skills and knowledge to practice on my own. I did not always have enough experience to lead myself through a practice though. When I first really got into yoga, but before I joined at a studio, I found a wonderful free resource that is still one of my go-to's today (especially when I am in seeking guidance in a hurry). If you are interested in practicing yoga at home, or if you want to go to a studio, but want to feel comfortable with the basics first, this is a really great resource.
Yoga helps me to slow down, breathe, and let go of the stresses of the day. The studio I go to offers a wide variety of classes that allow me to practice yoga as my primary form of exercise, and I love that about it! However, it is also great to incorporate yoga into an already existing workout routine, especially for stretching those tight muscles. Yoga is perfect for all levels, so don't be intimidated to start where you are!
If you have any questions about yoga, I would love to answer them! Drop them in the comments below.