My journey into yoga began eleven months ago in a slow flow class at Be Yoga. It was at a friend’s prompting who had grown weary of my complaints about constantly nursing soreness or other nagging injuries from exercise. I’m sure that by the end of that first class I looked more like an angry hippo than a sleeping pigeon, but I understood right away the potential that yoga offered me.
The breath. The body. The mind. The spirit. Yoga provides a gateway for better understanding of each of these, although I want to talk mostly about the body because that is the reason I first came to my mat…or at least the reason I initially kept coming back to it. I discovered very quickly just how much yoga helps you to understand your body more than just about any other physical activity. Most of the time when you exercise your body is just the tool to run faster, bike longer, lift more weight, etc. It’s utilitarian, like running an engine, and just like with any engine, the more and harder you use it, the more it can break down. With yoga, though, the poses seem to me as the tool to access your body, to explore its capabilities and its limits. Trust me, the first time you hold sleeping pigeon long enough for your breath (I guess I can’t talk about just the body) to create more space in your hips (and not just survive the pose), you realize yoga has opened up a whole new world and that angry hippo can stay at the gym from now on.
Turns out my body really likes back bends and twists and is not a fan of wide-legged folds, intense leg stretch or keeping my hips level (ok, anything with hamstrings – dang running). Whereas before I was just guessing and the only answer was rest or Advil, now I know better what my body is saying to me all the time. To the point that I realized I was abusing it by sitting at a desk for eight hours so after a little finagling with my boss, I recently got a stand-up desk and it has really improved my physical well being (and by extension my mental well being) throughout the day. At times, without consciously realizing it, I may find myself in some sort of casual pose to address something my body is telling me. What other form of exercise does that? I don’t start doing bicep curls in the middle of a meeting, but I could end up in a half lotus.
The Be Yoga summer challenge has been a great way for me to accelerate that learning. The staff and teachers have been very supportive, it really makes a big difference in your practice when your teacher gets more excited than you when you rock a pose. While perhaps not very yogi-like to obsess on getting to 50 classes, it has been a little bit of self-made yoga immersion for me and just like others on this blog have said, the more yoga you do, the harder it becomes to not make part of your daily life. I realize I’m still not quite a year in, but that’s no problem because I still have the breath, mind and spirit aspects to learn and deepen my practice.