For years, I would listen to people tell me yoga is good for me in the same way my seven-year-old self would listen to people tell me broccoli was good for me. Roll eyes. Express how much I don’t like it. Conclude they’re so wrong. Rinse. Repeat. At this start of this year, however, I made it my goal to do yoga once a week for the entire year. I had no idea how much an open mind and open hips could change my life.
I’m four months into my goal. Here is what I have noticed so far:
1. I feel much, much stronger and more agile when weightlifting and taking HIIT classes.
And I notice the difference the second the warm-up starts. My bodyweight squats are lower. My heels touch the floor during warm-up downward dogs. My core stability kicks in right away and starts helping the rest of my body to warm up. During the workout, I don’t tire as quickly and I can feel my core remaining engaged in every movement. At the end of the workout, I have noticed my flexibility during static stretching has drastically increased.
2. My daily nuisances aren’t as noticeable.
Something would always noticeably hurt when I woke up each morning – back, neck, shoulders, calves – the list could go on. I still experience some aches and pains, but they are far less frequent and severe.
3. I am getting better at yoga.
I would skip yoga opportunities and lean on the excuse that I’m simply not good at yoga. I don’t have the balance. I don’t have the coordination. I don’t have the grace. Turns out, practice makes per- well, makes better practice. Consistent practice has increased my balance, my familiarity of the poses and my ability to keep up with the rest of the class.
4. My mind is more at ease.
I used to feel pressure to work out intensely seven days a week out of fear that skipping a day would ruin my progress. I was worn out physically and mentally, and ultimately, I injured my shoulder. After that learning experience, I started to take one day off completely each week. However, this day would still leave me feeling anxious, antsy and wishing I could still keep active somehow. Yoga has been a great active recovery day activity for me. Since I started incorporating yoga into my weekly routine, I no longer feel burnt out physically or mentally.
5. My mind still isn’t able to shut off during yoga.
This used to be the most discouraging thing for me. No matter what I do, I cannot stay focused and present like the instructors encourage in each class. For the longest time, I concluded that there must be something wrong with me; that yoga is just not meant for me. But I no longer let it bother me. I reflected on all the times when I am able to turn off my racing thoughts and be present, and I realized that not being able to do it during yoga isn’t the end of the world. The environment in which I am able to clear my mind doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I take the time to do so in my own way each week.
Although I am nowhere close to being as stable and bendy as other people in class, my body and mind thank me every day for trying.