It’s been my desire to start practicing yoga more regularly. Not only does this act of self-care offer physical health benefits, but it also helps us experience more joy. And that’s why I decided to take a beginner’s yoga class. Sure, I’ve taken a yoga class or two over the years, but I never really felt like I was doing it right. It always felt like I was playing solo Twister while peering through my armpit at the instructor and trying to figure out which appendage I should move next. And I think I was missing the whole point.
When I walked into my first class, I instantly knew I’d made the right decision when I met our instructor, Jean. She made me feel welcome the moment I walked through the door. She offered suggestions for modifications when she noticed my body didn’t quite move the way the pose intended, and reassured us that perfection wasn’t what we were going for.
Since there were 6 classes, I thought it would made sense to highlight 6 reasons that practicing yoga has been a positive experience in self-care for me.
1. It’s helping me get to know my body. I thought I knew myself pretty well already, but I was utterly shocked to find out that there’s still quite a bit I don’t know about myself. For example, who knew I was so lop-sided?! Seriously. I don’t bend the same way on both sides. One foot flops further to the side when I lie on my back. My right leg goes to sleep when I sit in the sukhasana pose (cross-legged) too long. The other significant thing that I learned is that I can no longer move the way I used to. (Major bummer.) But despite these discoveries, even after just 6 short weeks I seemed to be able to do more than I could that first week.
2. It’s teaching me how to breathe correctly. Breathing is something all of us do, but I’d argue that we don’t all do it well. I’ve always struggled with finding the right breathing rhythm while exercising, and I tend to hold my breath a lot. Whether I’m strength training or running, I sometimes just forget to breathe. And by the time I remember to, I’m huffing and puffing and feeling frustrated. I know that sounds silly, but I think it’s because I take everything so seriously. I concentrate so hard that I lose sight of the bigger picture. Practicing yoga has taught me to find a sort of flow in my breathing, and that is what sets the pace for everything else.
3. It’s calming. I don’t slow down often, but yoga requires me to. The postures are relaxing and invigorating at the same time, and I can see how people become hooked on that sensation.
4. It’s challenging. It’s somewhat ironic that most people tend to avoid things that are challenging, especially when it comes to how we spend our free time. But there’s something special about the way you feel when you nail a pose, or realize you did it better than you did last time.
5. It prompts other healthy behaviors. Yoga makes me crave other healthy experiences–healthy food, healthy relationships, healthy finances, and gratitude come to mind. That’s the kind of mindset I leave with after every class.
6. I understand more clearly now that I am, and will always be, an imperfect work in progress. Ah yes, back to the idea of imperfection again. Yoga has a way of making imperfection okay, normal even. It’s an acceptance of reality. Pretenses and perfectionism must be checked at the door because yoga encompasses the idea that self-acceptance and acceptance of others is the core to our being, and to finding happiness.
What have been your personal takeaways from practicing yoga?