The first moments of my first yoga class were tinged with panic. I nervously blinked my eyes open and shut during the warm-up meditation and stretching, just to check I was doing the right thing. The heat rose to my face as I realised I wasn’t. As I went into a downward dog, glancing over at my friend to suss out what exactly I was supposed to be doing with my body shape-wise, I suddenly thought, “WHY AM I HERE?? What is the meaning of the life? Why is it called downward dog anyway?” I had not a single clue what I was doing, was wholly unprepared and thought I stood out like a sore thumb.
It quickly became clear, though, that no one was particularly worried whether or not I looked particularly flexible or zen. They were focused on their own practice. So I decided to stick to MY own intention, to let go of my insecurities, and just went with the flow (see what I did there?). That’s when I really started to get it.
A few months in and it’s become one of my favourite forms of exercise. While I’m definitely still a beginner and I still don’t know what I’m doing some times (but, like, fake it ’til ya make it, you know), I can already feeeeel the benefits. Never ever did I think I would gain such zen-happiness from rolling out a yoga mat, getting into a child’s pose and tapping into a bit of mindfulness. But I did.
Here are 9 reasons I’ll keep going back to yoga:
1. The philosophy
You don’t have to consider yourself much of a spiritual or religious person to connect with the philosophy of yoga. Many of the principles that it’s guided by could be applied to any social setting. I love the fact that you’re encouraged to have compassion and respect for yourself and those around you and to just be mindful of your actions or thoughts and the impact that they can have (whether in yoga class or your daily life).
2. All the zen
Whenever I go to gym, I kinda just run in there straight from work, hop onto the treadmill and go, go, go, and then run straight back out and continue my day at the same rapid, unthinking pace.
On the other hand, the yoga classes I’ve been attending start with a meditation session, a moment to transition from whatever came before that and let go of any tension. The instructor encourages you to focus on and regulate your breathing and let a sense of calmness roll over you. This feeling continues throughout the class and well after. I always leave feeling so relaxed and simultaneously energised, approaching everything thereafter with the same, mindful attitude. This is so important in a world so often defined by immediacy and the seeming need to be constantly busy. It also really works for someone as anxious and highly strung as me (I mean, I have to write in brackets because I have about 16 million thoughts going through my mind at any one time) to sloooowwwww it done and locate the zen.
3. Setting intentions (on and off the mat)
This was one of the things I loved best about the Secret Sunrise I took part in a few months ago. An intention is an aim or value that gives your actions a purpose. It’s such a simple thing but so useful. If you feel like you’re getting off track or losing focus, an intention can help with motivation since it’s a reminder of where you want to go, and what you want to achieve.
4. So. Much. Sweat.
Still in low-key shock at how much sweat was dripping off my nose and onto the mat during that first class (too much information?). And it wasn’t just me being a newbie and over-exerting myself. I obviously don’t have much experience in the different styles as I’ve only attended Vinyasa classes, but I felt like I was getting in a really athletic workout, one of those where you end up flopping to the ground all sweaty, red-faced and parched. Honestly scared of what a Power Vinyasa session (never mind heated Bikram yoga) will do to me. I might pass out. Or cry.
5. So. Much. Ouchies.
Literally lying on the carpet in front of the TV now, typing this (#DoYouEvenMultitask), and my bicep is starting to cramp with the exertion. It’s good pain though, the kind of stiffness in the muscles that let’s you know you’ve worked hard.
6. Healthy mind, healthy body
I’m not about to go on some obsessive health-and-diet kick (what is life without brunch? Or Cheese. Or carrot cake. Mmmmm…). But, when I complete a class feeling clear-headed and rejuvenated (like I’ve sweat out all the toxins and hit the “reset” button), the last thing I want to eat is greasy takeouts or a bar of chocolate. I usually crave something super fresh and simple like stir-fry with egg-noodles. And then will probs eat a bar of chocolate the next day because #balance.
7. Body confidence
Speaking of bodies, I quickly noticed during my first class that everyone seemed comfortable in their own skin. No matter their body type or age, my fellow yogis wore sports bras and removed their shirts and just focused on going through every motion. And that’s how it should be. In yoga class, there’s a collective sense of respect for one another and minimal judgement. It doesn’t matter what you look like. What matters is that you showed up.
So I decided not to care about my own squishy bits either and I’ve just generally been encouraged to love my body for what it can do (I mean, I’m still more potato than perfectly twisted pretzel, but I’ll get there). And when you’re confident in your own skin, it reflects in the way you present yourself elsewhere, making a positive impact on everything you do. As one of my favourite fitness YouTubers Sarah’s Day says: “Act confident, and no one will question you”.
8. Rain or shine, yoga is available to you
Yoga requires no equipment and can be done inside, outside, on a rooftop, by the beach, anywhere, any time regardless of age or fitness level or flexibility.
You could even bust out your beach towel (like I did) next to the waves, on a remote and uninhabited island in the Seychelles and still get in a solid session of stretching and deep breathing and reconnecting. Which was definitely needed after a full-on morning of hiking and rock climbing and a lot of swearing. But, more on that adventure soon…
9. Every class is different
With a regular change over of teachers (that’s been my experience at least) I never know what to expect, which is fantastic. Each instructor has a different style which encourages you to work your body in different and challenging ways. As a newbie, this also means I learn something new each time. Just the other day I was told to crouch over the mat like a little worm (which I thought I’d be amazing at, but wasn’t #potatolife).
Okay, yoga-is-life-giving rant over. I hope you’re feeling inspired to give it a try. See you on the mat.
Until next time. xx