|starting a post with a cute-dog-doing-yoga pic? I know, I'm shameless|
That was my opinion when I was 13 and it didn't change when I tried to take a yoga class in undergrad at age 18. Whenever I visited home and my dad wanted me to take his yoga class with the rest of the family (he teaches at a few local gyms), I'd try to come up with an excuse. I just hated it. I hated how time seemed to drag while I was in class; I kept sneaking glances at the clock and calculating how far through we were and how long until my favorite position -- lying there, doing nothing.
Today, yoga is a cornerstone of my active life, and I schedule yoga classes or practices into my week the same way I schedule runs and strength training. I love feeling my body lengthen as I move through the poses. Nothing makes me feel as limber and strong as going through a vinyasa with as much grace as I can manage. And although shavasana ("corpse" pose, or "lie there and do nothing" pose) is still my favorite pose, now it's because it's an opportunity to reflect on the previous hour or so and how good it made me feel.
So... what changed? Well, I stopped looking on exercise purely as calorie-burning that had to be done (occasionally, hating every moment with a fiery passion) and began looking at it as something that I enjoyed and that strengthened my body. As you become healthier, I think you become more aware of your body and how it feels. That's what led me to eat a lot less dairy and cut out meat completely (although I still eat seafood). I didn't feel good eating them. That doesn't mean it's best for everyone, but it's what I realized I felt best doing. I think that's what makes yoga so much more appealing to me now. I can feel how good it is for my body. I finish my yoga practices feeling both stronger and looser, full of calm energy instead of the wiry, buzzy energy I feel after a cup of coffee.
|dancer pose on the top of Whistler Mountain|
I don't like all yoga. I've tried several studios, and found that if the instructor spends too much time talking or the flow doesn't feel intuitive to me, I don't leave class feeling that wonderful post-yoga glow that I feel after my favorite classes. But any time I practice yoga at Strala Yoga or with my trainer, Amanda, at Uplift Studios (or with my dad when I'm in WA!), I leave feeling more aware of my body and the space I inhabit. I feel calm, strong, centered, and aware.
I think what stands out to me with these instructors is the emphasis they place on the class being your practice. It isn't someone's idea of what yoga should be. You're led through a series of moves, but the emphasis is on letting yourself be the ultimate guide. The introspection that is required of yoga by virtue of the attention you pay to your body and how it feels throughout class means that, for me, if an instructor talks about philosophy for a portion of the class, I am taken out of that concentration. Depending on how intent upon the pose I was, asking me to think about something too far removed from that present moment can make it much harder for me to get back into that mindset of being present.
The days when I practice yoga are just better days, in the same way that days when I run are better, but in a different way. Running days leave me feeling strong and excited by all my body is capable of accomplishing, similar to how I feel after a tough strength-based class. Yoga days leave me glowing with the knowledge of the quiet strength my body holds.
And what about the days when I run and practice yoga? Well, those are the best days.
Do you enjoy doing yoga? Is it part of your normal exercise routine or an occasional class you take?