It seems only fitting to discuss yoga today as I’ve had an overshare on social media in regards to my practice lately. #sorrynotsorry … I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I always thought yoga was exercise for tree hugging hippies. I always thought practicing yoga meant I had to be a lover of the Earth, recycle, and eat vegan. That I had to be a lover of all things holy and appreciate all living things. That I had to enjoy hugging people and like everyone around me. I’m not those things. Hell, I’m not even sure I’m one of those things. Trees bother me. Bugs bother me. I absolutely hate being touched. Recycling takes too much work, and fuck, I love a good piece of fried chicken. But as I dig deeper into my own yoga practice, I’ve quickly come to realize that I don’t have to be all of those things to appreciate the art of yoga. I don’t even have to be one of those things. Though I’m sure I’d be a more well rounded person if I got off my ass and recycled; it’s not a requirement for my yoga practice.
I often have people send me messages asking where my love for yoga stemmed. How did I get started? Where did I learn? Could a beginner grow as much love for the practice as I have? I get incredibly excited when I hear people started or revisited their own yoga practice based on the inspiration I’ve given them through social media. I become excited when I scroll through my own social media news feeds and see my long time friends beginning their own yoga journey. Though I’m a bit biased, I know yoga can benefit everyone; and I’m here to tell you why and how to get started.
First of all, my yoga practice started at home and yours can too. I didn’t go to some fancy studio and learn from these world renowned yoga instructors. I’m a self taught yogi and take pride in the research I’ve done to grow my own practice. I started my practice with a Beachbody program called “21 Day Fix.”. I was on a mission to finally lose my baby weight and needed a jump start to clean eating and exercise. I talk about my experience with the 21 Day Fix here.
My practice started with the “Yoga Fix” workout on Sundays during my 21 Day Fix series. I loved how the workout made my body rejuvenate. Being completely out of shape, my body would quickly tighten and become incredibly sore. I’d have those moments where I’d dread going to the bathroom because my legs were so tight from the workouts. I started to look forward to Sundays where I could literally stretch it all out and flood my body with oxygen. I quickly learned about the “yoga high” after completing my first Yoga Fix workout. The endorphins that flooded my body from accomplishing such beautiful moments intrigued me, so I began my research from there.
A close friend of mine encouraged me to attend classes at a local studio. I began taking classes on a regular basis, but I continued to feel like I wasn’t getting enough from each session. I continued to do my own research from home by reading various websites and programs online. I began to grow a love for certain online yogi instructors, and I learned how to create my own flows based on how my body felt each day. I downloaded apps on my phone, sought instruction remotely from my sister-in-law (whom is a registered yoga teacher), read articles online, and explored in Pinterest. By exposing myself to information online and utilizing my sister-in-law as a resource, I began to grow my very own at home daily practice. Being at home allowed me to become more creative and listen to my body’s needs each day.
So, how can you get started?
If you have the time and energy, I strongly encourage you to find a local studio and take a yoga class. The wonderful thing about classes is whether you are beginner or advanced, the class can be modified to your ability. I’ve taken classes with other yogis whom never stepped foot on a mat before. Great instructors are able to adhere the class to allow both of us to obtain what we need from the practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new or you’ve been practicing for decades. Yoga instructors that know what they are doing and care about their students are able to modify the class to make it a great experience for all. Classes also help to avoid injury. By taking a class, an instructor is able to observe your movements and assist in any modifications or adjustments that are necessary.
While I definitely think you can benefit more from a yoga class, I don’t think that’s the only way to get started with a yoga practice. Yoga classes provide you with amazing instructors that can correct your form and allow you to focus on the feeling in your body without having to worry about much else. But as a stay at home mom with limited external supports, getting to class isn’t always an option in my household. Not to mention, it can be scary and awkward trying new things for the first time outside of your home. I’m not a very social person, and I hate the awkwardness of being around people sometimes. Facing fears and leaning into discomfort are ideas I’m slowly learning to appreciate; but learning to listen to your body and mind are also important ideas. I opt to expand my practice at home while taking a few classes at various studios sporadically.
If you want to start a yoga practice at home, I encourage you to follow The Journey Junkie, Yoga with Adrienne, or any other registered yoga teachers with a vast amount of information electronically. In the beginning of my journey, I followed Yoga with Adrienne as she has a plethora of great beginner yoga tutorials on her YouTube channel. I came to find Allie – The Journey Junkie through one of my own yogi friends. My friend encouraged me to join her in a 30 Pose Journey challenge via a social media share. I had no idea how much yoga was involved in social media, but I opted to try. In September/October 2016, I completed Allie’s 30 Pose Journey, which broke down 30 poses in depth, and I was amazed at how much more I learned from yoga. Allie completely changed my perspective. It wasn’t just about nailing a pose. It was about accessing those deep feelings in the pose, responding to the pose, being inspired, and challenging myself each and every day.
What are the benefits of a yoga practice?
For a good duration of my lifetime, I’ve been living with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. I continued to believe my issues were normal and something I was destined to live with for my entire life. It wasn’t until last year that I took control of my physical and mental health and advocated for better answers. In search for answers, last year, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Fibromyalgia. My life had taken a turn for the worst after I had just given birth to my two daughters in back to back years; and my doctors began experimenting with a variety of prescription cocktails. Drug after drug, I found myself sinking deeper into an unhappy, dark world. I couldn’t see the light ahead of me, and my life began to spiral out of control.
When people ask me about yoga, I tell them how yoga saved my life. I mean it. Yoga took me from the darkest place in my life to completely medication free and able to control my own symptoms. Yoga has challenged me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yoga has taught me to take time for myself, to recenter, to learn to love others, to not act on impulsive, and to focus on my own growth as a human being. Yoga has taken me from struggling to get out of bed in the morning to laughing again with my young children. Yoga has saved my life. It’s not just about moving through movements and mastering fancy poses. Yoga is about connecting with your entire self: mind, body, and soul. It’s about taking as many minutes as you have to spare each day, setting intentions, and learning to approach the world from a new, fresh perspective. Yoga isn’t just an exercise. Yoga is a lifestyle.
Do I have to do all that fancy crap?
Absolutely not. Yoga isn’t all arm balancing and inversions. In fact, some yoga teachers do not incorporate these poses into their classes. These poses can be intimidating and encourage the idea of comparing your own practice to others. Yoga isn’t about nailing a pose or copying another person’s practice. Yoga is about embracing your own journey, listening to your body, and allowing yourself to be challenged internally and externally. If your practice doesn’t involve a headstand, it doesn’t make you any less of a yogi than one that does.
If you follow my social media, you likely see my balancing on my hands or upside down in some sort of way. Something about that blood rush to my head flips my perspective in life and brings me incredible joy. That doesn’t mean I’m a better yogi than you. There’s no such thing as a “better yogi.” I prefer the “fancy crap” some days because it’s challenging. I hate lifting weights and by utilizing my entire body, I build up muscles that I didn’t know existed. This doesn’t mean I’m upside down every single day. Be sure to listen to your body and do your research on arm balances and inversions before attempting them. These poses bring risk and potential injury; and without proper instruction, you could find yourself hurt.
Are classes and other yogi friends a requirement?
Absolutely not. You can obtain many benefits from yoga in the comfort of your own home inside your own little box. But I assure you, the practice of yoga may surely change your mind. I encourage you to find other yogis and talk about the practice with each other. Find a local yoga community or a group of friends. Practice together. Join the Live Your Journey Facebook group. Reach out to me via my social media, and I assure you, I can talk your ear off! While yoga can be so beneficial independently, it’s amazing to share your challenges and successes with others. I’ve made yogi friends all over the world; and each person provides me with the opportunity to think outside of the box both on and off my mat. Each person brings a unique perspective to my life and while I struggle maintaining friendships, I truly admire each of my true yogi friends.
In conclusion, I encourage you to try your own yoga practice. Take a class. Take a few classes at various local studios. Step outside of your comfort zone. Follow the Journey Junkie, Yoga with Adriene, Kino Yoga, Beach Yoga Girl or any other awesome yogis you find on social media. Reach out to me, and we can talk! Yoga has become an everyday practice in our household. I encourage my girls to join me on the mat, and just recently convinced my husband to try it, too. My husband’s role in my yoga practice has been to be my biggest beer drinking cheerleader; but now it’s his turn to hit the mat. If he can do it, you can too! Challenge yourself – mind, body, and soul – because what world are we creating if we don’t evolve into the best versions of ourselves… namaste, yogis