I Went Back to Yoga After Eight Years and Here’s What Happened

A month-long journal chronicling a return to yoga after eight years…

I initially wrote an introduction to this article about ‘yoga and me’ over the years, but it was so boring that I tossed it. Here’s the quick version: I started yoga in 2002 for various reasons, but mostly to gain flexibility in my joints due to a then-recently diagnosed autoimmune disease. For the next six years I went often and even enjoyed a three-month Bikram yoga trial (so hard, but so worth it.)  though I never considered myself a yogi. Yoga, for me, was a therapeutic practice to keep my joints in good working order. But life went on, time passed, and I eventually gave up yoga for running.

Cut to last month, after a long eight-year hiatus from yoga of any sort. Quite simply, my girlfriend asked me to join her for a yoga class and, instead of quickly declining per usual, I actually thought about it. After a wild year and an even crazier month, I thought, what the heck and met her for a Saturday morning session. I bought a month-long pass, chalked it up to a self-experiment and was on my way.

That month has passed now and I feel…hmm…different. To be completely honest, I didn’t attend as many classes as I assumed I would and I can only credit myself for going when it was convenient. But that’s just how life rolls sometimes. I journaled my re-entry back to yoga for a few reasons. One, to understand if it actually does make my now much older body feel better? And two, to know if yoga would allow me to tap into some sort of peace in my hectic life? Well, I have answers — check it out below.

Week One: The very first class back to yoga was a doozy. Just imagine buckets of sweat, tons of shaking and an unending prayer for more child’s pose. My mind was loud and thoughtful breathing was completely out of the question. There were many poses that, once moving like clockwork, my body now yelled absolutely no to. The class seemed to go on forever, probably due to all the shaking, and I thought we’d never get to Savasana. Well, the class did end and, funny enough, I remember leaving with a spring in my step. I felt lighter, free, fresh…somehow.

That was my only class that week. Ugh! Even after how great I felt post-class, I just couldn’t get myself to practice. My shoulders were a little sore, but my body wasn’t screaming like I thought it might. I knew that if I really wanted to figure out if yoga was for me, I would need to be more disciplined.


Week Two: The next class I attended was a night class after work. I used to love night class — it was always the perfect way to unwind after a busy day for me. Well, the practice was more of an intense mental battle than a relaxing way to unravel the day. Truth be told, it was not pretty. I tried to focus on connecting with my breath, moving my body with the flow. Though I was a balancing mess and I still felt weak in the core (and arms and legs), I found that I was able to mentally connect with my breathing. I found more peace in the easier poses and my mind didn’t holler Mayday the entire time. Overall it was challenging, but I was getting better…?

I went to class two more times that week. Each class was getting easier! I was sinking lower into my poses, twists weren’t torture, and I didn’t want to weep every time our teacher called for chair pose. Outside of class, I felt stronger and more connected to my body. I was sitting and standing straighter, or at least I was trying to when I remembered. My shoulders want to automatically round and my back would love to lazily slouch but, even after four sessions, I was becoming more aware of my body and able to make corrections.

Week Three: The classes this week were my best yet. Yes, physically I was improving — I was gaining flexibility and body-awareness — but what I really took away from this week was my mental improvement. I was able to disconnect with the outside world. What’s the saying… “Leave your issues at the door?” Well, I was able to do just that. I wasn’t thinking of apartment hunting, renting a storage space, or how I needed to pay a parking ticket (all real thoughts). I, instead, thought about my body, my technique, my breathing. I was focused and it felt amazing.

Week Four: Ahhh, the final week of my experiment. I went to three more classes this week and, when I thought I would continue on my upswing, I actually found this week strenuous. Because I was feeling more confident in poses, I challenged myself to up the ante. I tried more advanced poses when maybe I wasn’t ready? After each class this week, I was soooore. But it was also a reminder to keep pushing myself (within boundaries). I felt stronger. I think I even looked stronger (yay for the reappearance of arm muscles!).

Overall, I am excited about my return. To be honest, I never thought I’d go again! But I’ve learned that it does strengthen my body and mind. I have even begun to stretch throughout the day — a must for anyone sitting at a computer as much as I do — and have started to consciously breathe when the day becomes hectic. I also learned that yoga is not automatic. Each day, each practice, each pose is different and your body and mind need to meet you there. Yoga is about intention for me. It’s not perfect and definitely not pretty, but it’s me. It’s my practice, my body, my mind.

+I’d love to hear about your yoga experiences — leave your stories in the comments!

Photos by Tina Deleon.

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  1. I took a break from yoga for around a year, when i finally re joined i realised how much i had missed it, even more that i could have ever imagined! In September last year I began my yoga teaching journey. I guess i need that year off to really appreciate how much i needed yoga in my life. I’m documenting my student teaching currently on my blog.


  2. I just started attending yoga classes last month. I have only been to one class, but I loved it! I have tried doing yoga at home, but it is so hard to focus and find a place to do the poses while challenging myself. Thank you for sharing your journey and encouraging me to keep going!

  3. I never liked going to Yoga classes because I always felt my body needs are different from the usual vinyasa flow asanas practiced in most flow classes. That said however, it’s not like I don’t like yoga itself. I just felt like I needed personalized yoga class that focuses on my personal needs and style. But individual classes are way over my budget, so this is what I did:
    I wanted to learn about yoga that would equip me with a sequence that is fit for my body. After trying out various different yoga classes, i realized that i loved Yin yoga. Unfortunately, I do not know of many studios that offer yin yoga classes. And the one place I found it, only offers it a couple of times a week, and neither of those hours were working out for me. I found this one studio in town (I live in Denver), called Whole Yoga, where they have a 10 class course of sort where they teach 40 fundamental yoga poses. It’s not just a flow class, but in this course they take time to address individual body types and how to get in and out of poses and different versions of poses which was really helpful to me.
    That combined with my experience with Yin yoga before, I have prepared my own home practice sequence. So, now I don’t go to studios for yoga but do it at home instead, and I feel great! I used to have all kinds of upper back pain and what now, those have disappeared completely. My posture is much better, and I feel much better.

  4. I started practicing yoga on a whim after an especially stressful day at work in October 2014. It was very challenging at first but even just after the first practice I felt different! It was a work out but it didn’t feel daunting…I found that I couldn’t wait to get on my mat everyday. I didn’t rush myself, I just enjoyed discovering how my yoga unfolded day by day and I’ve been practicing regularly ever since . I still can’t get enough! It’s so exciting to see how your body changes and how you can start to find ease in postures. Starting a yoga practice was something I never would have guessed that I needed in my life but it is something I can’t imagine living without now and is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I continue to learn about myself through yoga every day. It truly is a journey through which I’ve found so much self love and self confidence and it has helped me through good times and so many bad. And it’s fun! Maybe it’s not for everyone but it is definitely worth a try for anyone looking for a healthy change in their life.

  5. I regularly practice yoga , an also take classes , I have seen lots of miracle happening in my classes. Many of my students got cured form long time aliments which modern medical science could not . I happy that you have started it again, please continue , its a wonderful thing.

  6. I regularly practice yoga , and also take classes , I have seen lots of miracle happening in my classes. Many of my students got cured form long time aliments which modern medical science could not . I happy that you have started it again, please continue , its a wonderful thing.

  7. Thanks for sharing your yoga stories, all. You are encouraging me to keep going! Janel, sometimes I get that message too. Give it a second and try to repost. xx, Joanna

  8. Great post!! This is such inspiration and just goes to show you that true strength lies in never giving up. I started yoga when I was about 13 so it’s been 10 years of yoga in my living room, during hikes, with friends, and sometimes splurging on a yoga class in town. I’ve definitely had periods where I’ve been away from the yoga mat for too long and start to feel the effects of that mentally, spiritually and physically. This year my resolution has been to do yoga every single day, even if it’s a simple sun salutation or a 15 minute session before bed. May your yoga journey continue to bring you happiness and health. Namaste. -XOXO- Emy Hart
    P.S. I LOVE the artsy edits of your photos, great use of color!

  9. I have practiced yoga in my living room for the past two-three years and about five months ago I attended a free yoga class. My teacher has allowed me to distress through the practice because she has given new light regarding the purpose and rewards of yoga. I’m about to go off to college so my nerves are really getting to me. Yoga has reminded me to take a deep breath and try to approach situations again with ease and grace. Yoga has given me patience, self-love, and flexibility.

  10. Yoga can be really hard. I feel like my best experiences of yoga were with the intention to relax and not to work out. I did a month of yoga in Rishikesh and it was a very different experience than yoga in NY. The intention behind the class and the treatment of students was more holistic and not as bodies moving. I’m kind of bummed I haven’t found classes like that in the U.S but I’d like to start doing yoga at home. I also found amazing yoga classes in Miami on the beach sunset/sunrise, yep it’s amazing!

  11. I found yoga in 1997 and it quickly spoke to me on so many levels. Over the course of the next 15 years I stopped and started my practice. In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment I was left depleted and lost. My neice visited me, and being a yoga teacher, she talked to me about going back to yoga. I did and almost 3 years later my practice is stronger than it has ever been.. It is sometimes hard to notice the subtle differences when I practice on a regular basis….but boy I can surely notice when I don’t! To say yoga has had a healing effect on me would be putting it mildly. I love yoga. It challenges me every single time. Mentally and physically. That is different than saying it’s hard. It has become a necessity, it has become the great love of my life.

  12. I stopped going to yoga for a few months and a few days ago after struggling with walking because of my arthritis, decided to try it once again. It is amazing what yoga can do. This article always inspires me to get up and yoga despite the pain some days are filled with!

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