What has yoga done for me?
I remember the first time I stepped (bare) foot into my first yoga class. My mom dragged me to a hot yoga class at Yoga By Degrees when I was home from college for my winter break. I was extremely nervous because I had no idea what to expect, and I was used to a judgmental atmosphere with workout classes. Even if people aren’t obviously judgmental in a workout class, I feel like in some workout environments, people that are “regulars” or proficient in that class, judge newcomers (which is very rude by the way… don’t be that person). I also grew up as a dancer, and the entire premise of dance classes is JUDGING. The teacher and the other students are supposed to judge you and correct you to “push you to get better,” but I never liked that part of dance. I was on the Poms squad for all four years of high school, and I remember in practices our coach would tell us to perform a part that we messed up in front of the whole squad by ourselves as a kind of “punishment” and we would then receive corrections about how to improve. Thinking back, that kind of harsh criticism had the potential to really destroy someone’s self esteem and confidence, and I think it really started chipping away at mine. I was not the best one on the team, in fact in my coach’s eyes I was one of the worst. I worked my ass off, and still mostly only received negative feedback, so I had it in my mind that I was mediocre.
With all of this in mind, I entered my first yoga class with a hesitant and fearful attitude. My mom had showed me the basics beforehand so I wasn’t completely clueless. I went through the motions and pleasantly surprised myself throughout the class. I can honestly say that after my first yoga class, I fell in love. I didn’t necessarily fall in love with the movements and the physical experience, I fell in love with the atmosphere. I had never entered such an accepting and positive space. I experienced the calming way that the teacher spoke along with with the darkness in the room and the way that each participant was absorbed in their own practice. I left feeling refreshed and confident in my own practice, even though I may not have done all the moves completely correctly. I admired the way that people were able to truly do whatever they wanted. People took breaks, and went at their own pace, and I immediately thought that that is how all workouts should be! It was after my first class that I was excited for the journey that yoga had in store for me.
Now, after having practiced yoga religiously for about two years, I can look back and reflect on the things that it has brought me thus far.
Yoga made me confident.
Before yoga, dance had pretty much destroyed my confidence. I felt like I would never ever be awesome at anything that I enjoyed that required moving my body. I always joke and say that I am mediocre at everything. I can do a lot of things well, but I hadn’t found my thing… until yoga. The amazing thing about yoga is that no one is bad at it. Maybe you feel awkward in the poses the first couple times around, but the practice is so personally catered to your specific body and mind that it is impossible to be bad at it. There is a lot of room for personal growth in yoga. A lot of things in life offer up opportunities to grow: a job that lets you get promoted above others, a sport that lets you become MVP, a dance that allows you to stand in the front row. But yoga is unique and special because the growth is completely personal and has nothing to do with anyone else. There is no competition, only gratitude. Before yoga, in the beginning of my college experience, I wasn’t doing any kind of physical activity and I started gaining weight. I felt so horrible about myself and I found myself always comparing myself to others. Yoga gave me the kind of confidence that makes people glow. Have you ever seen someone walking down the street so confidently, and somehow you know that they’re not cocky, you know that they’re not comparing themselves to anyone else, and you know that it’s genuine because they’re like literally glowing!? Maybe it’s just me, but I notice that about people, and yoga made me feel that way. Yoga made me feel fearless both in class regarding postures and poses, and in my endeavors throughout my life. Yoga made me confident in my skin and confident with who I am as a person.
Yoga made me strong.
Yoga made me both physically and mentally strong. I like to talk about some physical improvement in my blog because I don’t like to pretend that it doesn’t matter at all to a lot of people or to me. Setting goals about your body and how it looks is normal and okay to do, unless it becomes obsessive or unhealthy. I had been struggling so hard in my workouts before yoga. I was a “cardio queen” and I hated it. I felt like I was working my ass off and seeing no progress, which can be one of the most discouraging things in the world. Through yoga, I both saw and felt physical improvements. After taking a number of classes, I could all of a sudden hold my plank longer, I could get through a whole sculpt class without feeling like I was going to throw up, I had freaking biceps! It felt amazing. I wasn’t looking for progress in my fitness through yoga, but I found it anyways. Now, I feel so strong while I’m taking a class and it makes me feel so grateful for my body and the things it allows me to do. Along with physical strength, yoga has helped me tremendously with my mental strength. Long story short, throughout my life I have always been very dependent on others in order to feel happy. I never felt a sense of fullness in my life and I wasn’t comfortable with myself. I struggled with depression and self harm in high school and now, it manifests through anxiety. Yoga has filled that void. With every class and every teacher, I learn something new. I truly feel that I deal with situations more gracefully and with more positive intentions since I started practicing yoga. I still have so much to work on in this area, but yoga has helped me through so many hard times in my life and has made my mind stronger.
Yoga gave me purpose.
Building off of the previous section, because of the fact that I was always dependent on others, I never really had the chance to find my own personal passions. After high school, I realized that I was pretty behind in figuring out who I was. Everyone had “their thing” and I honestly didn’t know what I was really about as a person. I spent my high school journey being passionate about all the wrong things (people) and kind of forgot to be passionate about myself and my future. When I found yoga, things really started falling into place. Immediately I found yoga to be such an important aspect in my life and without even realizing yoga became “my thing.” The cool thing about being so obsessed with yoga is that I can apply it in so many other aspects of my life. Through yoga, I have found other passions in health, wellness, blogging, etc. Yoga is something to look forward to, something to lean on, and yoga has now become my purpose.
Q & A
How do you stay motivated to keep up your practice even when you’re busy?
I truly believe that if you want to make time for something, you can; even if that means sacrificing something else. For example, I would much rather make it to my mat for fifteen minutes in the morning instead of putting on eyeliner. Shifting priorities can be very beneficial. It’s very important to put the things that involve your overall well being at the top of your priority list. Planning is also a huge part of it. I take a look at the yoga schedule at the beginning of my week and physically write down which yoga classes I am forsure going to make it to. That way, if someone asks me to babysit or work during those times, I can kindly decline in order to make it to yoga instead. I also think that practicing yoga at home is so important in order to get in your practice everyday. Even if you wake up, walk over to your mat or your floor, and do a quick Sun A flow, I promise you will feel so much better and refreshed. The motivation factor comes naturally for me because yoga is something that I genuinely love doing. If yoga isn’t your thing and you aren’t feeling motivated, then don’t go! Find something that makes you excited. However, I will be real with everyone and say sometimes you literally just have to force yourself to go. If I commit to a 5:45am yoga class, am I going to spring out of bed and skip to class? Probably not. But with yoga especially, once you are in class physically sitting on your mat you will be so glad that you decided to show up. Showing up is half the battle.