How I found yoga, and the top 5 reasons you should too
I had just come home from my first Olympic Games and my cousin with perhaps just a teeny tiny bit of bias thought I should be beating off sponsors with a stick, she was ready to right this wrong (bless). Later that week she was talking me up at our local Lululemon store, while we didn't walk out with an immediate sponsorship and bunch of new swag (sad) what we did get was an invite to attend a yoga class with the team at a new studio in town. Yoga had always seemed like something I 'should' do. I had forced myself to go to a few classes here and there doubting any real benefit. My doubts about whether yoga was really 'my thing' were pretty much confirmed by the 70 year-old man to my right sitting comfortably in lotus pose (crossed legs), his knees flat on the ground breathing meditatively. My knees were up by my shoulders and every second felt like an eternity for my poor hips. How anybody found this to be a calming and rejuvenating practice was beyond me. Nevertheless, due to my inability to say 'no' and most likely still holding out hope for a few new pairs of tights, I went along to the class.
This yoga class was different than what I had been to before; a 90 minute leg burning, heaving breathing, sweat sesh, light on the 'woo woo'. My kind of yoga! You you can still basically drive a truck between my knee and the floor when I sit in crossed legs, and I didn't get a fresh new wardrobe but what I did get was so much more! I'm now a yoga twice a day kind of person, I like a little sprinkling of 'woo woo' in my life and my mind and body as a 33 year old aerial skier feel better than they did at 23!
So, here are my top 5 reasons you should make a little room in your life for yoga. 1. Move it or lose it
There are few things in this world that bring me more joy than moving my body, it has been such a wholesome pleasure in my life since I can remember. Some of my best memories as a kid are riding my bike around the neighbourhood, swinging on the monkey bars, skiing with family, swimming at the beach - you get the picture. I've even managed to make a career out of moving my body.
Move your body because you can! And because you'll still want to be able to move 5, 10, 100 years from now. Sadly, movement has been hijacked by the weight loss industry, and everyone else that profits from you believing you're not enough as you are. The truth is, whether you love your body or not, you only get one and it deserves a little recognition for getting you where you are. Maybe you're not up for an Ironman tomorrow (or ever) but the beauty of yoga is that it will meet you where you are. Don't be put off by the supermodel on Instagram with their legs behind their head. Start where YOU are - every posture can be modified, and strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance will follow. 2. Clear your mind
We would all like to get out of our heads from time to time and be a little more present. Just clear your mind, easy, right? If you answered 'yes' then kudos to you, it must have taken a lot of time and discipline to get where you are. If clearing your mind seems like an almost impossible task to you too, let yoga be your tool. If you're trying to decipher left from right with your arms crossed behind your back, or balance on one leg with your eyes closed while not taking out your neighbour I guarantee you won't be thinking about watering the plants or how to ask your boss for that raise.
3. The Attitude is Gratitude
It might be an overused quote, but the world really does start to look different when you practice a little gratitude. I found yoga at a time in my life when injury had suddenly left me on the sidelines of my sport for a year, I was lost. Yoga started out simply as a physical practice, but with a few strategic sprinklings of that yoga 'woo woo' I mentioned earlier, step by step I began to break out of my funk, saw opportunities instead of obstacles and when the time came I went back to my sport a happier and healthier human. 4. Community
In the early days I signed up almost exclusively for 90 minutes of intense, sweaty, leg burning yoga (still a favourite). I absolutely loved 85 minutes of those 90 minutes. Those first 5 minutes though...the worst! The teacher would instruct everyone to introduce themselves to somebody they hadn't met yet, a nightmare for this introvert. Although I still sometimes secretly hope the teacher is running late so we can skip the intros, I can truly appreciate the community they have created. Making new friends in the playground used to be easy, but as an adult, between work, kids, and that never ending to-do list it is HARD to get out there and make new connections. So why not kill two birds with one stone and head down to your local yoga studio.
As someone who struggles to separate progress from action I often find it hard to carve out time in my day to be still. I have experienced first-hand the benefits of taking time out to just be, but when times get busy it always seems to be the first thing to fall off the list. If I do have the self-discipline to keep it on there my mind is usually racing with all the things I need to do once this bloody 10 minute timer goes off. The beauty of a yoga class is that someone else carves out the time for you, and since you've made the effort to go to class, it's a bit easier to disguise this moment of stillness as action.