For years I have been a skeptical spectator of Yoga. I’ve arrogantly scoffed at those who so fiercely promote its benefits and i’ve struggled to understand how these poses can support a healthy lifestyle. Mostly, it just seemed to me, to be a nifty little Instagram trick. Great photos, those poses make, don’t they?
In more recent months, however, I’ve changed my opinion. Having become distinctly aware of the things that cause me anxiety and, as a result, developing coping mechanisms that include burying my head in the sand and feigning ignorance to anything important going on in the world (super easy to do during a global pandemic btw), I decided I might benefit from practicing Mindfulness, including having a crack at Yoga.
I should be clear that this is by no means the writing of a total convert, there are enough blog posts out there preaching the life-changing effects of being able to contort your body into the downward facing dog without experiencing that tiresome ache in your hamstrings, but this isn’t a complete dismissal either.
Now I have another disclaimer for you; Yoga is not a part of my day to day routine, if you must have the full disclosure. I enjoy thinking about it more than I actually practice it.
Much like my opinion of meditation, I fully expected to fold into the child-pose and spend 30 seconds thinking about my dinner, but as I joined in on my first ever yoga class at my gym, on an early Sunday evening, I found myself relaxing into the quiet warmth of the room and spending less time thinking about jacket potatoes and more time focusing on balancing my weight on one elbow.
I suppose you could consider this post a ‘I-tried-Yoga-so-you-don’t-have-to’ essay, because i’ve got a mix of positives and complaints about the whole ordeal that may or may not encourage you to give it a miss, but either way, I thought it worth noting because I never expected to feel so interested following my few attempts.
What’s that, I hear you say? No shit?
Aside from the fact that if you’re not of the bendy, stretchy variety you will struggle to hold the same pose for more than 20 seconds even if both feet are on the ground, it was also initially quite difficult for me to switch off from keeping an eye on how many seconds are ticking by which I suspect, is not the point of yoga. It probably doesn’t matter how long you hold each pose really, but if it says ’30 seconds’ on the instructions then, damnit, i’m holding it for not a second longer.
Lose any expectations you have;
It took me a long time to finally get the guts to try Yoga, i’m talking years. For a while I simply didn’t understand the point, I didn’t understand how and when you were supposed to change position and what the purpose of any of it really was.
When I eventually joined my first class, I gave in to the fact that I knew nothing about this form of exercise and by that, I mean, I had to lose the attitude. I had to be gracious enough to forget what my opinions were and just give it a try. When I started practicing at home, I simply removed whatever preconceived notion I had of the necessity to connect to any kind of spirituality. I put on relaxing spa music, held the poses for 10 slow breaths and by the end, I felt better. That was it, that’s all I do and it does the job I need it to.
If, like me, you were under the impression that you were required to experience some existential awakening which you doubted would be possible then fear not, the only thing you’re going to experience is that slight ache in your arms as you hold them outward in a straight line, until it starts to feel heavier and heavier and it’s like you’re carrying 50KG in each hand. That, and perhaps a slight impatience for time to speed up.
If you’re in the right space, it will be far more pleasant.
One morning during Isolation I decided to spring out of bed and do an early morning yoga session using a Youtube video. Within ten minutes of the video starting I was thoroughly pissed off.
I didn’t have enough space between my bed and my wardrobe to really move as openly as I’d have liked and I was staring at a tall, heaped pile of clean clothing that I had been avoiding all week. A peaceful haven this does not make and I threw in the towel rather quickly.
On the evenings when I’ve used the loft room as a space to practice, with the low sun shining through and enough peace and quiet to focus, I’ve found i’ve appreciated the session a lot more and embraced the time it takes to move through each pose.
I still don’t understand the hype
I struggle, in general, with spirituality which may well be my biggest downfall when it comes to fully appreciating yoga. I’m quite dense when it comes to embracing that lifestyle and I can’t link the actions with anything other than a desperate need for me to a) actually nail the pose and b) calm the fuck down. But what I have noticed is that Yoga means something quite different and quite personal to me, it’s just a tool really, to help me stretch, to give me some focus and another attempt to quieten my thoughts.
Yoga’s not for everyone, but it certainly seems like everyone’s at it. I wouldn’t worry too much if it doesn’t appeal to much to you but I do genuinely think it’s quite a nice activity to try if you’re a restless over-thinker, or if you just need some new ideas for instagram.
Featured Image via Pexels