For the past month and a half, I’ve been rather slow on the blog posts. So I decided it was time to think outside the box and cover a new topic. Did you know that I sometimes do yoga?
I’ve never been a particularly sporty girl. Although I took dance classes for many years, my main extracurricular in high school was band. And, you know, obsessing over getting good grades. Competitive team sports? Not my thing. The closest I came were solo and ensemble music competitions, as well as yearly all-state band tryouts, where were certainly stressful in their own way. But I’m really not built for activities that require physical aggression. So it’s at once somewhat surprising and completely obvious that I eventually found my way to yoga.
My college required us to take four P.E. classes, but I didn’t have enough seniority to get into a yoga class until my junior year. I knocked off two of the credits with modern dance, which was about as amusing and awkward as you might imagine. In hindsight I’m glad that I was able to take beginning yoga in such a casual setting. At first I only had a vague idea of what to expect. I just hoped that it would be relaxing and that my flexibility from years of dance would be helpful. We started with the most basic components, and both classes had a wide range of skill levels. I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to seek out yoga in the real world without some background experience.
I have come across two misconceptions about yoga. The first is that it isn’t real exercise because you just sit around on a mat. The second is that it requires you to contort your body into crazy, uncomfortable positions. Regarding the quality of the exercise, there are different types of classes with higher or lower intensity, but many of the poses are physically taxing, especially when held for an extended period of time. As for the crazy positions, that also varies depending on the style of yoga. However, one of my favorite things about yoga is that it’s intended to be accessible for many different body types and fitness levels. Any pose can be modified, and all of my instructors have encouraged us to find the most challenging version of the pose that still works for our body.
Yoga is like any other sport in that way. You start practicing the basics and work your way to a more advanced level. I like that there’s no reason to be competitive or compare yourself to others. The goal is to focus on your own body and mind. Yes, I said mind, because there’s a meditative aspect to yoga as well. In most of my experiences, that comes from the instructor asking us to quiet our thoughts, focus on our breath, and just be. From a mental health prospective, clearing the mind is a very useful skill to practice, and becoming more in touch with your body is valuable as well.
After an embarrassingly long hiatus, I finally got back in the yoga studio this week, feeling the need for a cold weather exercise option. Sure, I could try to practice in my living room with a YouTube video, but that just doesn’t work for me. I like having an experienced teacher on hand for guidance. I like having other students whose presence motivates me to keep trying, even when it’s hard. Now that I have a regular work schedule, I’m hoping to make yoga a part of my routine this winter.