Yesterday, I went to yoga for the first time in almost a month. During the semester, I would do a shortened (1 hour) ashtanga class every Friday, lift weights and do cardio at least 3 times a week, and sometimes do additional yoga classes. While I wasn’t the most dedicated yogi, I was consistent and I was improving every class. However, when the semester ended, I went on vacation and, while I continued to do mini solo flows, it just wasn’t the same. Then I returned to Fort Collins and I was ready to jump back on the mat, but my gym wasn’t offering yoga classes for two weeks due to cleaning and scheduling changes. So yesterday, when I was finally able to go to practice again, I learned a few things:
- Go with the flow. Don’t fight yourself, don’t fight the flow. Breathe and move with that breath. It’s something every yoga teacher tells you, to move with your breath, but I think it’s honestly the most important thing. Not only does it keep you steady and controlled, but it really keeps you focused and moving. I also fully believe this carries over into the real world: don’t fight yourself, follow your breath, and trust in the flow. Life is better when you go with the flow.
- Consistency is key. As I mentioned previously, I hadn’t been to yoga in almost a month and boy did my body feel that. While moving through chaturanga dandasana, I noticed it was WAY harder than normal. My tri-ceps and thighs were shaky and that’s not something I’d experienced since my first yoga couple classes of the semester. Additionally, all the progress I’d made with inversions had taken a couple backwards steps. Luckily, I hadn’t completely lost it! But still, it reminded me that it’s definitely something I need to practice, more than once a week, or in this case, once a month.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is something I struggle with in many aspects of my life. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy stress or confrontational situations, but that’s exactly what I had to deal with during yesterday’s flow. My muscles were sore and tired, my body wasn’t near as balanced as it had been. As uncomfortable and frustrated as it made me, I just had to remind myself that the only way to make progress is to get out of your comfort zone, so that’s what I tried to do.
- Listen to your body. I know I just said to being uncomfortable is a very good thing, but not if it’s legitimate pain. In yoga, as with any workout or sport, if you’re feeling pain in joints or muscles, stop what you’re doing. Breathing deeper into a stretch, feeling your muscles lengthen is great, but only to an extent. Listen to your body. If it hurts to do something, make the appropriate adjustment or just stop altogether. You aren’t going to find yogi bliss if you’re in pain.
- Work with what you have. If you are just starting to try yoga, or coming back to it after a break, you aren’t going to be as flexible, strong, or balanced as the instructor and maybe others in your class. Additionally, if you’re a little bit bigger like me, it can sometimes be hard to see yogis all over the internet that are tiny, bendy, and that can do poses that don’t even seem human. Just remember, yoga doesn’t have a size and your success on the mat is not measured by your flexibility. Do the poses the best you can with the body and skills you have. Utilize blocks and straps if they help you, just do what your body can do!
- Do it for you. If you are in a yoga class because it’s trendy, all of your friends are doing it, or simply because you think it will make you look a certain way, you aren’t going to get the full benefit. Even if you’re not a particularly spiritual person, yoga can help you find your strengths, your weaknesses, and most importantly, yourself. It can be a completely challenging experience, but the bliss you can find is amazing. However, that bliss won’t be near as impactful if your heart, mind, and spirit aren’t fully present.
- Be adventurous. If yoga is new for you, you’re already being pretty adventurous and that’s wonderful! Even if you’ve been doing three classes a week, or you’re returning from a bit of a hiatus, put yourself out there a bit. Challenge yourself. Try the more difficult poses, work on your inversions, HAVE FUN. You might fall, you might think you look ridiculous, but you will never regret trying something new.
So, if you’re thinking about trying yoga or thinking about stepping back on the mat, keep these things in mind! Namaste!