For a long time I had associated yoga with something that was only for the hippie Buddhist folk, ‘poser’ Lorna Jane chics or cougar housewives. I was intrigued by the whole yoga business but I had it in my head that I probably wouldn’t like it and I would likely suck at it too (and I can be a bit of a sore loser so I really hate it when I suck at something). There were a few events that followed in the coming months that eventually prompted me to give it a go.
So why did i give yoga a go?
- Hip cramps – I’m one of those unfortunate slaves to the man who works a 9-5 office job, stuck to my desk for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week. As a result of sitting of my ass all this time (and having my legs crossed when I shouldn’t) my hip started to go dodgy. I was only just in my 30’s at the time and my older sister had already gone through hip surgery so I knew I had to do something about it.
- Neck pain – On top of a dodgy hip, the realisation that I was not getting any younger slapped me in the face one morning when I awoke with extreme pain in my neck and couldn’t move my head at all. I tried going to the physio (and maybe I just didn’t see a very good one) but I didn’t feel like I was getting the results I wanted.
- Bad posture – I had no idea how bad my posture was until I saw a photo of myself trying on my wedding dress. It was not good and I was definitely not keen on looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame come the wedding day.
My friend was a member at a yoga studio and had been saying how I should come and try out a Saturday morning class with her. I was unsure but she promised me we could have a smashed avocado brunch afterwards and if you even mention the word food to me, I am in. The only previous experience I had with yoga was when I had nearly passed out/threw up doing a Bikram Yoga class (but that’s for another article), so I was a teeny bit worried. But given the issues I was experiencing, I though what have I got to lose?
I arrived at class and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of hippie Buddhist folk, ‘poser’ Lorna Jane chics and cougar housewives. Yes it’s true that the majority of yoga classes will be made up of females but for all you lads out there, check out Matt Estevez’s article on yoga. But I digress. The class began with a breathing exercise, which in yoga terms is called Pranayama (a Sanskrit word meaning breath or life force). Basically it’s an exercise where you focus on controlling and slowing down your breathing. I find this to be really helpful in getting me to focus on the task at hand (yoga or otherwise), as I often feel like there is some sort of hideous rave party going on in my head, attended by all the mistakes I have ever made in my life, featuring DJ you will never amount to anything and MC what are you doing with your life. But again I digress. So the breathing exercise finished and so began the yoga.
I quickly realised that yoga is one of those things in life where it really doesn’t matter what size you are or how ‘fit’ you may or may not think you are. Even though you are attempting the same pose as the person next to you, you will look vastly different. On one hand, I found some poses were naturally easy for me but on the other hand, there were many poses where even the slightest stretch or bend caused discomfort. I find the seated forward bend poses (Paschimottanasana) is particularly horrific for me. I guess the key is to remember that discomfort is ok but pain is not – there is a difference. If you feel pain, you’re doing it wrong ya dumbass. Also doing a pose that’s uncomfortable will straight away cause that horrific rave party brain to kick back into gear so this is when you have to work extra hard on controlling the breathing. Easier said than done of course…but patience you must have my young padawan!
On a side note, a few key things to keep in mind before doing a yoga class: 1) don’t be a piggy like me and hoof down a big meal or you will feel sick, 2) make sure you go to the loo cos yoga farts are both mortifying and hilarious depending on whether you dealt it or smelt it, and 3) the right clothing is essential – I find tight but not too tight is good, particularly in tops (this does not apply to leggings because leggings are lyfe). There’s nothing worse than skin tight tops dripping in sweat but I have also come close to accidentally undressing myself whilst wearing a loose fitting top and performing a downward dog pose – the top fell clean over my head! But back to yoga…
I also learned there will be certain poses that you’ll develop a love/hate relationship with. For me this is the dreaded pigeon pose. I have no clue why it’s even called pigeon pose because no pigeon I have ever seen can do that and if a pigeon can pigeon pose it should be taken to the nearest vet because its legs are broken. But it’s one of those poses I struggle with the most because it’s also a pose I need the most. If you can just push through the discomfort of the pigeon pose, I promise you there is goodness on the other side. Personally, I find it loosens the tightness/soreness in my hips the more I do it but immediately afterwards my heels are also able to touch the ground in my downward dog pose, which they don’t otherwise do. Winning!
After about 50 minutes of various yoga poses comes one of my favourite parts of the class…the Savasana, or corpse pose. This is pose is just as it sounds; lying down on your mat, completely still and eyes closed. All your hard work is done and now you can relax. I love savasana because it’s like a little reward for making it through a class but it also helps to slow down your heart rate before I have to drive home and have my heart rate increase again through road rage.
So after my first yoga class, I was hooked. Not just because of the physical benefits I experienced with my body but for the unexpected benefits I experienced mentally as well. I now try to attend a yoga class at least 2-3 times a week. Any less and I personally don’t feel like I make enough progress to be satisfied with. But that’s just me. It also helps to find the right yoga studio/teachers – I was lucky enough to find a little gem called Hot Yoga Life (this is not a paid endorsement but I’m also not opposed to paid endorsements 😉 lol). By no means have I turned into this amazing stretchy, bendy, yogi guru or whatever. Like most of us, I slack off every now and then and get lazy around the holidays. It’s these times I feel like I take 2 steps forward, 10 steps back. But as one of my yoga teachers says, it’s called yoga practice for a reason – you attend class to practice and get a little better each time. Now I feel obliged to end my weird rambling brain dump with some generic inspirational quote to get the people going, so….errrr here goes… “it our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”.