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Relax! It’s Yoga

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but yoga has always been one of those things that I would love to try, but I’ve always had a bevy of excuses and reasons not to. I’m not flexible enough, I’m not strong enough, I don’t have time for all that spiritual stuff. The list goes on, as do the years.

I’m 32 now and I just started taking yoga classes. I mean “just”, a month ago. I signed up for the free week at The Yoga Life in De Waterkant and have subsequently paid for a 3 month unlimited pass.

It’s not really fair for me to say that I’ve never done any yoga. Piyo is a fusion of pilates and yoga and I definitely knew more than a newbie would, thanks to that exercise programme. Having now completed 2 rounds of Piyo and a round each of Insanity Max30 and 21 Day Fix Extreme, I’m also stronger than I would have been if I had started yoga a year ago. I may have not been so determined to stick it out for the week and continue with it beyond the free classes.

preparation for scorpion pose

It’s taken me years to get myself to a yoga class. I’ve been practising yoga on my own at home for months with the help of my friend, youtube, and even though I am able to do many of the poses I still felt too shy and even embarrassed to take my practice into the class environment. I had to have a good old think about why this was and I realised it was just ego. I was worried about what people were going to think of me, and even worse, I was worried I would feel inferior to others who are stronger, more flexible and more experienced than me. It was then that I realised if this was my excuse, then I should just give up on the thought of ever going to a yoga class.

In the end, I got my chicken-ass into gear and dragged my mother to a beginners yoga class with me (because I was to scared to go alone, obviously). I felt strong, engaged, able to follow and completely elated once the class was over. The vibe was completely different to what I had imagined. OK, so there were some guys in the front doing their spread-eagle handstands and the splits, which kind of made me want to throw in my mat and run home, but I decided to ignore them and focus on why I was there in the first place… I want to be the person doing spread-eagle handstands at the front of the class!

Taking my mother with me also lead me to another realisation. It’s seemingly obvious, but as normal human people, we tend to focus on the things we CAN’T do, rather than the things we CAN. There is a place for looking at our faults – we have to if we want to improve upon them, but we need to celebrate our strengths as well. The reason my mother reminded me of this is because even though I’m her child, we are built completely differently. My mother in incredibly flexible – she can touch her toes and forward fold until her chest touches her legs whereas as I on the other hand, can only just touch my toes for the first time in 32 years, and when I attempt a forward fold, I am still sitting up straight (thank you, protesting hamstrings). However, on the flip side of this, I have more strength than my mother. I may not be able to bring my toes to my head in a dancer pose, but I can crow pose, head stand, forearm stand and hand stand (still with the security of a wall behind me) and my mother struggles with all of those poses.

I just want to throw in this little tidbit: Yoga is an absolutely awesome workout. It flows beautifully but you are using your whole body, training yourself how to breathe – which brings a sense of calm, and you are always moving. Don’t let all those serene looking yoga photos fool you – you definitely sweat.

A strange thing has been happening to me since I started this process almost a month ago. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t have time for all that “spiritual stuff”. That is because I’m a bit of a skeptic and because my father taught me that we create our own destinies. I still believe that, but I have to say – it’s weird, but I find myself being a much friendlier, smilier person since starting yoga. Hey, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but that hour of calm and awareness really does something for your soul.

So the lightbulb moment really is just to realise that we’re all so completely different. So much so that all we can do is work towards improving our flexibility, which in turn will enable to us have even greater strength potential. For me, that’s what yoga is all about. It’s the best form of exercise to do in a class environment because you simply cannot compare yourself to anyone else. It’s not a competition and everyone is there for a soul reason – whether it be to find calm in a busy life, to harness energy after an exhausting day, to build strength, flexibility and fitness or just for the love of yoga.

So if there is anybody else who is afraid to try yoga – if I can get myself to a mat, anybody can. Remember – 21 days forms the habit, so if you’re interested, at least give it that.

It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up.

 

This article first appeared on Danielle Asherson’s blog