Whatthehellasana, or How I Learned to Love Yoga
I’m going to let you in on a little secret…when I first started yoga back in 2000, I hated it. I mean, I really despised it. What the f*#k is a Sun Salutation, and why the f*#k do I have to do so many of them? And why does that guy next to me sound like Darth Vader having an asthma attack? Why are they chanting—do they even know what they’re saying? Are we singing now? Yep, we’re singing—why are we singing?
Each time I tried a class or VHS (yep, dating myself here), I finished the practice feeling dissatisfied, and even angry. I’m not sure why I stuck with it. My stubbornness is legendary (ask my mother), but if I hate something, I’m not generally inclined to keep at it.
But I did. There was something about yoga that spoke to me, although I couldn’t identify what was speaking to me at the time. But eventually, something changed. I learned to love the atom bomb—yoga, that is. I found teachers that resonated, and styles that felt right to my body. I learned to let go and honor my body and where it’s at that day. And later, I found myself on the road toward certification.
I’ve been teaching now for ten years, and I’ve watched so many people’s journeys, on and off the mat, happy to be a small part of that path. And it saddens me to hear people talk about their first experiences with yoga, and how they hated it and never went back. One of my favorite parts of being an instructor now is finding those people and reintroducing them to the world of yoga, and then seeing them smile at the end and say, “Oh, well, I liked that.”
Maybe you’re someone who hasn’t ever ventured down the yoga worm hole. Perhaps you are one who tried it and hated it. Wherever and whomever you are, here are a few things to keep in mind as you contemplate getting on that mat.
- Find an instructor you like. I cannot emphasize this enough. This may take some trial and error, especially here in Boulder where you can’t throw a green juice without hitting a yoga instructor. You may find yourself leaving several classes disgruntled, but stick with it. There is a teacher out there who will leave you sad class is over. They will challenge you, but keep you safe. They will make you laugh and not take yourself so seriously. This isn’t to say the other instructors are bad, but they just aren’t for you. It’s like choosing a car—some people are Ford truck people; others are Mini drivers (no pun intended. Ok, well, a little intended); and others cruise around in a Mercedes. We go after what we want, and a yoga instructor is no different. Ask around; read online reviews; and just get out there and try some classes.
- Investigate the different styles. Do you want a beginner class or an advanced one? Do you want to hold poses for a long time, or do you want to flow from one to the next in a single breath? Do you want to chant? Do you want all the pose names to be in Sanskrit, or would you rather the teacher spoke English? Do you want a supportive class with bolsters and blocks? Are you pregnant? What kind of class do you want? This may take some trial and error to discover. I’ll go over the different forms of yoga in a future blog, but we all have access to Google now—do your research and find the style that speaks to you. That may change from day to day. Some days I want a class that will leave me breathless and begging for savasana at the end; and other days, I just want to feel completely supported by a bolster, relaxed and at ease. Try out different classes and learn what you like.
- Drop the ego. Seriously—just let it go. Every time we step on that mat it’s a different story. Accept what your body gives you in each specific class on each specific day. Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing. Yes, she has both her legs behind her head and looks completely comfortable while you’re eyeing your toes wondering if you’ll ever touch them. Don’t attempt the more advanced version of a pose because you don’t want to look ‘bad’ or you want to do it ‘right.’ There is no perfect pose. Let me repeat that, since there have been recent events such as “yoga competitions” cropping up that are completely counter to yogic traditions and philosophy: THERE IS NO PERFECT POSE. The perfect pose is the variation that’s perfect for you today. The end. Your poses will look different day to day. You have embarked on a lifelong journey—lifelong means your practice will evolve for the rest of your life. There is no ‘mastering’ yoga. We aren’t Jedis. (Yes, that’s two Star Wars references in one article. Deal). You will grow and develop your practice throughout the years—embrace the journey.
- Bring your own mat. Invest in a mat—you can get a cheap, but decent one at Target, or you can look into more pricey versions that are eco-friendly, or heftier, like Jade or Lululemon mats. There’s nothing that will kill your Zen buzz faster than smelling someone else’s foot funk next to your face. Get your own mat. Bring it to class. And clean it—please, please clean it.
- Have fun. Isn’t that what life’s all about? Why do it if you aren’t enjoying it? Smile during class. Laugh when you fall out of a pose—you will fall out, just accept it. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Lighten up and let go. You might just discover something new about yourself. And along those lines, be prepared to learn many things about yourself—good and bad. Yoga brings you face to face with your strengths and This can be a challenge and often, uncomfortable, but, embrace the growth and self-discovery. Use your practice to move toward a better version of yourself.
So, take a deep breath; do your research; be prepared for some trial and error and mishaps; but do yourself a favor and at the very least, get out there and try something new. Enjoy the adventure of the experiences. You never know…you might just learn that you kind of like getting your ass handed to you. Or maybe chanting is your new thing. But you’ll never know until you try.