As a type-A, always-working-three-jobs woman, I've been told by many people over the years that I should try yoga.
Yet, like the glutton for pushing myself to the max that I am, I’ve somehow forgone the consistent practice of yoga for other types of exercise like running or cardio classes.
All of these activities temporarily ease my stress levels… but, even with regular practice, often do very little for my long-term happiness levels.
From the outside looking in, yoga seemed somewhat unfeasible: could I really be one of those people who bends and breathes deeply, eyes closed in state of bliss, in a room full of people? Could I really focus on myself the way yoga requires?
I’m the type of person who can hardly get my thoughts to stop when I’m by myself…let alone in a room full of meditative people. Alas, yoga just seemed unattainable, and I resisted.
Then, last week, I finally visited a local yoga studio. It’s as if the stars aligned: I’ve just moved, started a new job, am working through many changes in my professional and personal life, and I got a recommendation from my new boss about a local CorePower studio.
Turns out they were offering a free trial. I figured I was in a new place, in a new job, trying hard to refresh every other aspect of my life. I was also somewhat stressed and in need of something…in need of anything. It’s worth a try, right?
Days later, mat in hand, I entered the dark-lit studio. I rolled out in a back corner and attempted to look as relaxed as everyone else did. As usual, my worry train came screeching through my mind.
Are they really laying there meditating? Do their backs hurt on this wood floor? How often is the floor cleaned? Why can’t I close my eyes? Is it completely obvious that I’m sort of freaking out here?
But then, it started. Class. Yoga. My life, perhaps?
I was transported into postures and movements I’d never seen or heard of. I got lost in the soothing flow of many bodies moving in unison. I became entranced by my instructor’s calming voice and the tranquil music playing overhead. The heat of the room enveloped me, and sweat poured in a thoroughly exhausting yet cleansing way.
I stopped thinking about whether or not I looked right and just tried.
I stretched, I twisted, I smiled at myself in the mirror.
What was most important in that moment: I stopped thinking.
Gone were my thoughts about work, about money, about what I’m doing with this life. Exiled were those contemplations of How do I look? and Do I belong here?
Just for a minute. And one minute was all I needed. When the class came to an end, I was drenched in sweat and felt a high of self-love I’m not sure I’ve known before. I was invigorated, worry-free, and new.
Nonetheless, though, a few hours later, my worries – the little devils they sometimes are – came creeping back.
Yoga, first thing the next day.
I’ve been going now for about a week straight, and, the more I attend class, the more I want, and the more I’m changing. Every day, I realize, I am living yoga off the mat, little by little.
So, from only a week in of regular yoga practice, here are five ways yoga is changing me already:
1. I yearn for something every day (in a good way).
While I’m definitely a cravings person (pass the chocolate, pretty please), I've never, ever yearned for any form of exercise. On days I have not been to a yoga class, I am physically yearning to be there.
2. I worry less – a lot less.
Already, the mantras of being present are flowing into my life practices. Yesterday, my hot yoga instructor proclaimed that full effort was full victory. When I’m feeling like I’m not getting every little worry of my day resolved, I’ve already taken to whispering this and other sayings to myself…and my worry of the moment is shelved, just like that. It’ll be there later. For now, I am doing my very best.
3. I’m stretching more – in class and in life.
In class, I’m already taking my postures just a bit further. With the emphasis that I am not in any sort of competition, with others nor with myself, I’m able to stretch my heel or my arm that much further.
This is extending to my life – this is your life, not a competition – I often tell myself this since I first heard it in a fusion class just days ago. This allows me to stretch creatively in my professional life, too – not worrying about being compared allows me to be myself to the max.
4. I’m enjoying the moment.
Many of my instructors so far have noticed the way I pressure myself to flow with the class at all times – perfection at all cost. Intuitively, then, many have come to adjust me, whispering mantras such as “breathe” or “you are doing great,” all of which have allowed me to reset and just enjoy the time with my body. It is not about being the best or the strongest – it’s about challenging yourself and focusing on you, if but for one hour of time.
5. My body is sore every waking minute of the day – in an utterly fabulous way.
When I am sore from worthwhile exercise, it's a constant reminder of the thoughts I had during my yoga class. It is a physical token, a reminder in a very present way, that I was there, focusing on myself, my postures, and easing my mind.
When I find myself becoming my type-A self, I can feel the twist of my ab muscles worked out during my latest class. Suddenly, I can revert back to the calm, worry-free version of myself, the version of me I’m loving more each and every day, on and off the yoga mat.