I am a yoga newbie. I am not super-flexible, my heels are off the ground in downward dog, and I still don’t really understand the etiquette of where to put my mat in the room when I’m at a yoga studio. How close is too close and how far is too far? Trying to get into crow pose scares me because I feel like I’m going to land on my face, and forget about grabbing my feet or ankles in bow pose. The front of my body is just too tight to pull that off. I love forward folds, struggle with twists due to major thoracic inflexibility, and can barely interlace my fingers behind my back because my chest is so tight. I also get irritated in a very non-yogic way if I don’t like an instructor’s voice or cuing. I love hot yoga, dislike doing yoga with my kids around because I find it hard to tune them out, struggle to tie up my hair so that I’m not lying on a lump of ponytail during shavasana, and practice at home the majority of the time. I know that yoga has a more spiritual aspect, but I haven’t really gone there at all.
In January, I practiced yoga daily. I was part of Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga challenge and I signed up for a 30 day introductory pass at Moksha Yoga, too. I made it to about four classes at Moksha, a hot yoga studio, over the course of the month and loved it, but found it super-challenging to fit into my schedule. I’m a mom with a fairly full calendar, so a two-hour block is a luxury for me, and I sometimes had to question whether spending those two hours on a one-hour practice was worth it. I really enjoyed the daily practice, though, and having been practicing regularly ever since.
As a working mom, my schedule isn’t terribly flexible. My work hours are pretty set as a dentist because patients get booked in sometimes months in advance, and really, at this point in my life, building up my dental practice is a higher priority than making it to yoga classes. At the same time, I know that my body is healthier and fitter when I practice yoga and I am making a conscious effort to get onto my mat regularly. Here are several reasons to make yoga part of your life, too.
- Your back will feel better. So many of us sit in the same position all day long, crunched over, barely breathing or moving. Yoga is a remedy for my slumped posture and forces me to uncrumple my spine, which makes my back healthier and happier and helps release the tension in the muscles of my shoulders, neck, and back.
- Yoga helps you manage stress. Yoga is all about being present in your body. It’s not about the 20 tasks you have on your to-do list, the fact that you’ve got to get your daughter to hockey practice by 7pm, or what you’re going to take out of the freezer for supper tomorrow. You are breathing deeply, checking into your body, and letting go of the mental chatter, and that is a recipe for increased happiness.
- Yoga increases flexibility and that’s good for preventing injury. I’ve been struggling with running injuries off and on for the past few years. I know it’s related to my glute and core strength, but I also have seriously tight hip flexors and a super-tight chest, which can make it hard to stride properly and makes it really hard for my back muscles and glutes to function properly. I’ve found yoga to be an active way to work on those tight areas in a way that’s more fun and feels more satisfying than just stretching.
- You deserve time to take care of yourself. It is becoming clearer to me how important it is to put my health and fitness at the top of my priority list. If I let myself get stiff and weak, I won’t be able to practice dentistry, pay off my business loan, and help support my family. That’s a recipe for stress right there, isn’t it? Plus, if I stop moving and plunk myself down on the couch all the time, what kind of example is that setting for my kids? “Hey kids, sitting on your butt while you watch TV for hours is A-okay.” Not exactly the behaviour that I want to model for them. You’ve probably read articles encouraging women to put themselves first, that say we have to take care of ourselves to be able to care for those that we love. I agree. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you help those around you, and sometimes your work schedule and mom-guilt can get in the way of that. Taking care of your family is a priority for many women, but, that being said, you have the right to do it FOR YOURSELF, and not for anyone else. You are worth it. The challenge even greater than finding the time is believing that you’re worth it.
- Yoga makes you stronger. Plank, chaturanga, downward dog, arm balances, and warrior II are all poses that challenge my strength, depending on how many repetitions we’re talking about and how long each pose is held. When I started strength training again a few weeks ago, I was sure that I was going to have lost a ton of strength since the last time I was really lifting, but I was pleasantly surprised at how heavy the weights needed to be to be challenging, and I’m sure that it’s related to the fact that I’ve been practicing yoga. I’m about 50 pounds overweight right now, and just about the only benefit I can think of is that my muscles have had to support that extra weight during yoga, which has made me pretty strong.
I sense that as I continue to practice yoga, my reasons for doing so will shift. I feel like yoga can be what I need when I need it, that it’s continually changing as I change. Right now, practicing at home several times a week is what works for me, but in the future, well, I am working on being present, so we’ll see where yoga takes me.
Do you practice yoga? What are your reasons? Do you have any advice for a newbie?