I first tried yoga about 15 years ago, as it was moving into the mainstream. I have to admit that at the time, I enjoyed the level of relaxation that I found at the end of class, but I felt that if I was going to spend so much time on a physical activity, I wanted to sweat.
After I finished my intro course, I promptly forgot about yoga. Heck, I didn’t even own a mat! Life proceeded as usual.
Fast forward about ten years and two kids later, when I found myself completely stressed out. I was in my third year of dental school and having a really hard time dealing with a prof – actually, several of us were having a really hard time dealing with a prof – and that, combined with a heavy course load, meant that I wasn’t sleeping well, I was dealing with digestive issues, and I was getting sick all of the time.
At this point – I can’t remember why exactly – I thought that yoga might help. I promptly did some searching on Amazon.ca and found what is still one of my favourite yoga DVDs, Shiva Rea’s Daily Energy – Vinyasa Flow Yoga. During the Christmas exam period, I would study until late, practice 20 to 30 minutes of yoga, usually falling asleep on the mat during shavasana, sleep like a rock, get up early to study, go to school to write exams and study some more, heading home for studying, yoga, and bed.
A lather, rinse, repeat situation.
Over the next few years, I would drift away from yoga for a while, and then return to it in times of difficulty. Each time, yoga was a source of calm and relaxation for me. I always walked away from the mat – I now owned one – happy that I had practiced.
In the fall of 2014, I started to dig deeper into self-awareness, trying meditation for the first time and practicing yoga more frequently. My yoga practice was still home-based because I felt intimidated by the idea of trying out a class at a studio, but I knew it was time to start to expand my yoga horizons.
Luckily, I met someone who was really into yoga, and she encouraged me to attend a class with her. I was reluctant because I didn’t think I looked the part. I was overweight and not very flexible and thought I’d get the side-eye when I walked into a studio.
Despite my reservations, I went. Did I feel awkward? Yes. I had no idea where I should put my mat or what to do with my hair so that I could keep it out of my face in all possible poses. There were some mighty slim and flexible people around me, and everyone else seemed to know what they were doing.
Did I regret going? Not for a single moment.
In the year and a half that I have been practicing regularly, I have never regretted getting onto my mat. There have been teachers whose styles didn’t work for me, or studios that I tried that I didn’t find welcoming. There have been days where I mostly wanted to stay in child’s pose for most of the class, or where I had to really listen to myself and ignore what the teacher was saying because it didn’t work for me.
But, I have never walked away from yoga wishing that I hadn’t done it.
How Yoga Benefits Me, and Why It Might Benefit You, Too
- Stress Management. You, your mat, and deep breathing for an extended period. You may not experience pure bliss, but you will feel better and more grounded.
- Increased flexibility. Spend a big chunk of your day hunched over? I do. Uncurl your spine and stretch your hip flexors. Your back with thank you.
- Greater mindfulness. Word on the street is that increased mindfulness leads to greater happiness. Who doesn’t want that?
- Being part of a community. Now that I’ve been visiting the same studio for almost a year, I’m comforted by familiar faces, I have favourite teachers and classes, and I feel connected and accepted.
- Better sleep. I struggle with insomnia and often awaken in the early morning with my mind racing. Yoga quiets those thoughts and lets me get the rest I need.
Amazing Yoga Resources
Not quite ready to head to your nearest studio? Check out these resources online from the comfort of your home.
Do you practice yoga? Have you been nervous about trying a class? Share your experiences with us!