There are some things in life that we desperately want to like, that we know will benefit our physical and mental health, but for whatever reason, we resist them. We might not always recognize why we’ve cultivated a disdain for a particular activity. Sometimes our insecurities are enough to legitimize and reinforce our little bubble of routines and guaranteed pleasures. Sometimes we’re simply too close-minded to initiate change. Whatever our excuses, this thinking is likely to persist unless we consciously decide that enough is enough: now is the time to take a risk, silence our negative thoughts, and try something new. And so it was for me and yoga.
Anyone who has been around me for more than five minutes knows I’m a bit of a stress case. One small change to my typed and laminated schedule is enough to send me into a tizzy. Rain on a day forecast as 85 degrees and sunny? It might as well be Mother Nature’s version of an apocalypse. The gym closed two hours early? Call in the EMS to revive me. Though I’m exaggerating a bit, these and many other events–all outside of my control–have caused me a lot of anxiety when it wasn’t warranted. In the back of my mind, I knew that yoga would teach me the patience necessary to deal with these circumstances, but I was always full of excuses as to why I couldn’t give it a chance. I was too busy; I preferred my treadmill routine at the gym; the whole practice was too hippy dippy for my liking (said as I munched kale chips in one hand and hemp granola in the other). In a word, I balked.
Recently, however, I’ve been trying to take more mental risks and expand my exercise repertoire. So one evening, despite my mind’s protestations, I marched to the closest yoga studio, signed up for two weeks of classes, and stepped onto the mat for the first time in years. And let me tell you–it was liberating. While I was initially apprehensive, I quickly warmed up to the practice. Sure, the ‘oms’ were a bit much, but the clear instruction, poses at varying levels of difficulty, and communal atmosphere spoke to me and reaffirmed my desire to give yoga a chance. As someone who is constantly thinking (and overthinking), I struggled to find a meditative state in which I allowed thoughts to come and go without judgment. This is something that takes time to master, but by the end of the class, I already felt more accepting of any incoming thoughts. Finally, as we settled into savasana, I knew that I’d be back again the next night.
Yoga is a lot of things, but a stretching routine it is not. It’s a challenge of physical and mental strength that integrates poses (or asanas) with breath to produce a beautiful flow not unlike dancing. When I entered that studio for the first time, I was in awe of the grace and seemingly effortless transitions that occurred throughout the practice. And, as a perfectionist, I immediately found myself wanting my body to perfectly contort into these poses without breaking a sweat. Of course, this defies one of yoga’s most important tenets: acceptance. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to accept that, despite having some previous experience with the practice, embracing my present abilities is necessary to grow and improve. As with so many aspects of yoga, I can apply this to many other unrelated aspects of my life. Whatever the challenge or difficulty I face, accepting things as they are is the key to moving through life as gently and peacefully as possible. With yoga’s help, I’m confident that I can do just that.
My next challenge: finding my breath. Look for an examination of this yogi practice in my next post of the series!
More in Yoga: How to Find the Right Yoga for You
Also see: 7 Foam Roller Stretches You Should Know
More Inspirational stories: How I Overcame My Fear of Heights and Climbed a Mountain
Photo: Go Interactive Wellness