Growing up a competitive athlete, and continuing on that path throughout adulthood, I have always had a rather restrictive view of what constitutes a sport or athletic endeavor. Yoga was one of those things that I was intrigued by, but also cautious of. Sometimes my need to be perfect overshadows my desire to try new things. Usually, with things involving my body or athleticism, I do pretty well straight out of the gate. I knew that yoga was not going to be one of them. Besides, I thought, “Yoga isn’t a sport—no one wins or loses.” Because of this judgmental mindset I never really gave it a chance—until this fall.
When I started working at Vera Whole Health, with a fitness studio literally 15 feet away, I couldn’t help but not try yoga. I started slowly just going one day a week, but soon found myself incorporating more and more days into my routine, finding myself driving there even on the days when I wasn’t working. Yoga brought to me a different way of being in my body—one that I needed despite not knowing that I did. It grounded me. It slowed me down. It gave me a sense of peace, and a time away from my never-ending to-do lists.
The other part of yoga that I discounted before trying it was the thought that it wasn’t really a workout. I questioned whether yoga was really going to do anything for my body. How wrong was I? During some poses I am shaking like a leaf and hoping that the pose will end sooner rather than later. Wow—it hurts (in a good way). I feel so strong in so many capacities, but when it comes to yoga and flexibility, I know that I have a lot of growing to do. I have also learned so much about my body and its alignment. When I get into Warrior 2, I know that my hip, thigh, and knee tend to rotate internally, so I have to be conscious of staying in alignment. When I am in downward dog, it is not about my legs being straight, but my hips tilting inward and upward and my hands pushing into the floor—my legs will straighten in time, and maybe some day my heels will actually touch the floor. I know that I will grow and learn with each day and each practice.
One of the things that I appreciate so much about yoga is the push to be comfortable in my rigid body. There is no right or wrong, no judgment when I can’t do certain poses, just an acceptance of what is. My body is what I have to work with. Yoga also supports my learning around creating community, not competition. Due to my state of flexibility, I cannot “compete” with the others around me, even if yoga did lead to that kind of thinking, which it doesn’t. When doing yoga, I am just me. I am not a runner trying to win a race, nor a volleyball player trying to get a kill, nor a climber trying to send a difficult route. It is just me, and my body, and nothing else matters.
One of the things that I am always grappling with is my tendency to judge others. Not only is my body rigid and inflexible, but so is my mind. I wonder if there is a correlation between the two? If I can become flexible in my body, will I also become flexible in my mind? Or maybe the opposite, if I become more flexible in my mind, maybe my body will follow? Or maybe my mind is already becoming more flexible, which led me to even doing yoga in the first place?
Yoga was and still is very humbling for me. Yoga makes me uncomfortable in my body. I guess I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and know that it is making me stronger, more flexible, and more aware of my body. All good things.
To all my past, present, and future yoga instructors, thank you for your patience.