My first yoga class...I was in my 20s, I've suffered from musculoskeletal pain from a spinal curvature at a 45 degree angle and I had heard about the benefits of better sleep, decreased pain, better posture and on and on from yoga. I was in college in a small town of Big Rapids, MI. I found a local yoga studio that was in a basement of an old downtown building. I signed up and went in and found a spot on my mat. I guess I don't know what I expected but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. End result - I LOVED IT!
My muscles were burning and it was a struggle, I was extremely sweaty. I think I thought it would be more stretching but I found that yoga can be high intensity or more gentle, that is the beauty of the practice. As hard as it was, I felt clarity, focus and connection between my mind and body. One of things that I learned quickly is that yoga is NOT about flexibility. I recognized there is soooo much more to it but that is the biggest reason why people tell me they can't do yoga, especially males. Not singling the male gender out at all here but want to point out that yoga is for ALL, meaning everybody, every body, age, gender etc. When I hear the statements about flexibility I tell them about how yoga impacted me when I had limited flexibility, "Yoga is more about the mental challenge than the physical challenge". I found that when my thighs were burning holding a warrior or my arms felt like they were going to fall off when in downward dog, or maybe thinking my leg/hip would break in the half pigeon that this was my mind playing games with me, telling me "I can't hold this, it hurts, it's too intense". I learned that my ability to hold a challenging pose was more about my breathe work and mindfulness than my actual physical capability. The thing is our bodies are strong, real strong and our body WILL hold if we quiet the mind that tells us, you can't.
You see one of my first teachers in the basement had one arm! One arm, doing yoga, holding a plank pose, doing it all and it all with grace. The truth is we all have something; I have a spinal curvature, someone else may have had a hip or knee replacement, or weight differentials or age, or other injuries. We all have something, the truth of the matter is yoga is a practice fit for all. Yoga is YOUR practice, what you make. I have been practicing for quite some time now and things that were difficult in the beginning are easier for me now, however, each pose has something to offer whether it's the first time or the 500th time. It's up to YOU where you take each pose or this practice. I mention that it's all about where you take the practice because most people say it's not a hard enough work out and to that I say "It can be, it can be whatever you want it to be". Yoga comes in all styles; restorative where you hold poses longer, gentler form or stretching, maybe modifying it or even getting deeper in the pose. Vinyasa is a faster, power flow.
Don't avoid yoga because of fear of looking weird, being unbalanced or inflexible. We all fall out of poses, we all have two sides to our bodies, one may feel different than the other in the very same pose, we all can benefit from the grounding, breath and postures. Face your fear of the unknown, roll out your mat and flow!
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