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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