Back on the Mat
I fell off the wagon people- the consistent blog post wagon. It's dumb that I have yet to find my rhythm/schedule but maybe this is my rhythm? Just sporadically posting? Lol.
Anyway, I'm here to talk about my recent jump back into yoga.
Back in my early college days I was really into yoga. I practiced almost 7 days a week thanks to the free classes provided to students at the campus activity center. Sadly, as my curriculum got more demanding, my class schedule got much more restrictive I didn't find time to fit yoga into my life. I was occasionally able to visit a
pricey private yoga studio after the free classes on campus no longer fit my schedule so I felt I was staying on track for a while.
Then my senior year came. I'm sure many people can relate to me when I say that my physical and mental health fell to the bottom of my priority list during this time. Aside from hurrying between classes and moving around in the print room I became pretty inactive. I was also really stressed out all of the time. And I don't know how common this is for other people, but when I get stressed my body becomes extremely tense. I ache and hold tension throughout my body which basically continued for a whole year straight. I would stretch every now and then and figured that because I could still touch my toes I was still flexible and therefore still in tune with my yoga practice. I don't know why I thought this was true but it couldn't have been farther from the truth.
Last year my parents got me a gift certificate to a local yoga studio for my birthday. I had expressed that I liked going and it helped me a lot with stress and anxiety but that it was out of my budget. I was super grateful and excited when I got the gift pass but I still didn't end up going. Before I got the certificate I had been going to the discounted community classes which were mostly relaxing and restorative. But the most helpful and exciting classes to me have always been the hot yoga and power flow classes. Both are relatively physically challenging and require a lot of mental focus. They are also more expensive. I wanted to use my gift certificate on these (instead of the cheaper, less intense classes) but I kept telling myself I wasn't fit enough or thin enough (ugh, I know!) to attend them yet. So I just kept putting it off. I said when I'm in shape I'll go. Then I found out I needed surgery. I said after my surgery I'll go. Then I had my surgery and needed to recover. I said after I recover I'll go. Then I decided to go back to gym. I said after I'm comfortable at the gym, I'll go back to yoga. Basically an entire year passed by before I stopped making excuses and decided to go to a hot yoga class. (Thankfully this gift pass had no expiration to activate otherwise I'd be screwed.) I activated it a few days before my birthday this year. I told myself no more excuses. If you want to do it you just have to go do it. There's not going to be a day where I wake up, suddenly a changed person and say to myself, "Today I'll have 100% confidence to walk into a yoga studio and start from the bottom!" So I just had to do it, and I did. I went to the class and I thought I'd be able to jump right back in where I had left off. I was mistaken. It had been YEARS since I had done any proper meditating or yoga poses so I shouldn't have been surprised. Believe me when I say I'm starting from the bottom. Believe me more than you believe Drake.
It's been frustrating and humbling to be back in the studio. I remember being really comfortable with intermediate classes and poses and I remember my body doing them and how it felt. And it felt good! But now there's very basic poses that are a challenge to me. Like my mind knows how to do them and how to get there but my body is on a different page... in a different book. This doesn't feel good. Like at all. It's frustrating to feel like you should be able to do something that you currently just can't do. It's definitely been an ego check for me and overall a good learning experience.
Every time we start a class our instructor welcomes us to our meditation and it reminds me that that's what it really is: a meditation. Yeah we're moving between poses but ultimately what we're focusing on is mind over matter. It's really challenging and uncomfortable to be in certain poses for a long period of time but we're constantly reminded that it's only temporary. That if I want it to, my mind has the power to push through the sweat dripping into and burning my eyes. We're also reminded to be honest and compassionate with ourselves. That there's no need to push myself or to be in competition with the person next to me. No matter what's happening around me, I'm there to focus all my energy on what's happening on my mat. Even though I'm surrounded by people, my practice is still able to be centered on me. It's a small part of my life where I'm consciously forced to focus on myself, where I'm at in yoga, and basically where I'm at in life.
I know that if you haven't tried yoga/meditation there's a chance my words sound really corny and are falling on deaf ears. Some people might think it's dumb to pay to go into a room that's heated to 105 degrees to sweat, stretch, and think. But to me it's really powerful to be there. I'm in a place full of people that are free of judgement and acknowledge that we're all there for ourselves. Everyone has their own goals or "intentions" going into the class. No matter how vague or obscure those goals might be everyone knows at the end of the class that even if we didn't achieve them, we're all at least one step closer. The instructor is there to guide and support without forcing anyone to do anything you can't or don't want to do. It's empowering to go into a room and hear someone, even a complete stranger, continually tell you that you can do it. But also if for some reason you can't do it today, you might be able to do it tomorrow or next week or next year, and that's okay too. You're reminded to breathe and listen to your body. But at the same time we're learning that our mind is just as powerful as your body. It's hard to do all stuff that for yourself. We're usually our own harshest critics and we don't tell ourselves those things often enough.
One major thing I've learned from this experience is that progress isn't linear. There are some days I can do eagle pose and some days I can't, but that doesn't mean I've failed or that I'm not progressing. I hope to eventually get to a place where I don't need guidance through practice. I know all the physical poses but it's hard for me to stop my mind from wandering and worrying. I definitely depend on the help from the instructor to stay mindful and focused while moving my body. I'm feeling okay about that for right now and I'm looking forward to progress in my practice!
P.S. I really don't like those hashtag namaste shirts.