So much of the world we see and recognize but never quite get to the point where we engage with it. Yoga was one of those things for me. I knew it was out there. I knew people who did it. Going to a yoga class never quite got on my radar.
Sometimes in life you find the universe speaks loudly to you. Four different people, all whom did not know one another suggested I go to yoga. I don’t know how the universe could speak to me more directly, so I made the commitment to start doing yoga. Fortunately we have a yoga class here at work that gives me one less reason to go.
Being comfortable with me
When I mentioned I was doing yoga at the office, a number of people gave me a quizzical look saying, “I don’t think I could work out with my coworkers.” Or, what they’re really saying is “I don’t think I could be that vulnerable in front of my coworkers.”
At first, I definitely felt exposed. I didn’t know what I was doing. What I didn’t realize before going is that yoga is an intensely individual practice. Those doing yoga focus on the individual art and practice of doing yoga. Nobody in the room is worried about how you are practicing your own form. There is a communal vibe across the room that we’re all doing the same art together. It’s a collaborative connection, not a competitive one.
Expect some soreness
I tend to get sore two or so days after I do something physically active. My first yoga session was active and engaging but I didn’t think it was excruciating. My muscles thought otherwise. The days following my first yoga session were actually really intensely painful. I was beyond stiff. I’ve been less active recently and thought yoga would be a great way to start gaining flexibility and strength. It has been. I had to pay off some fitness and flexibility debt in those first couple of sessions.
I’ve done CrossFit. I’ve played team sports. I’ve done individual sports. Exercising in a communal setting has a natural tendency to be competitive. When you’re running on the treadmill or spinning on the bicycle it’s natural to look and see if the person next to you is moving slower or faster than you are. When looking at a weight machine, we always adjust the weights as the person before likely has different skills and goals. There is a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others.
Yoga’s individual nature frees me from the competitiveness common in so many sports. It’s an hour of me being with me in the context of other people. My poses are my own. My moves are my own. I work in a way that both pleases and challenges my body. I say this in full context that I’m not God’s gift to fitness. I focus on my own journey through yoga.
Learning a new vocabulary
Yoga is a language. It’s a language expressed through movement and grace. Just like spoken languages, those new to yoga need to learn the basic vocabulary. I had no idea what things like Warrior 1, Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, and Chair Pose were.
I’m going through the period of learning a new vocabulary. The more vocabulary I learn, the more graceful the practice of my yoga becomes. I’ve noticed after a few sessions I transition more smoothly from the Chair Pose to Downward Facing Dog and back again.
The instructor will also give custom positions with specific instructions like “move your right knee towards your left shoulder.” it requires an awareness of your body beyond knowing what each part is. There’s a gracefulness and having them move together at the instructor’s command. It’s knowing each part, where it is spatially, moving each one, and orchestrating them all together. It’s in the transition we find the true grace in yoga. There are people in my class whom I have so much to learn from because they’ve mastered the language.
Yoga is not just a physical practice
As I’m a newcomer to yoga, I’ve mostly been focused on the physical aspects: poses, transitions, strength. I believe those four people that suggested I engage in the practice of yoga were more focused on its mental aspects. Our instructor gently blends both the physical and mental awareness in class. Child’s pose is a common position in yoga. I honestly forget what the instructor said about child’s pose, but I started intensely thinking about that position for the rest of the class. I whittled down to the following statement:
Child’s Pose is resting in the fact that you are human.
I think for me life is been teaching me to accept the fact that I’m human. Child’s pose is a wonderfully restful position. The back is fully extended. You’re fully connected with the ground. It took me quite a while to get to the word resting. At first I started with accepting. Accepting sounded like I was resigning. Knowing wasn’t quite active enough. Being at peace had the same type of resignation to it. Resting for me acknowledges the active nature of humanity, but embraces the need we all have for peace both physically and emotionally.
I’m excited that I actually miss yoga. It’s becoming a high point for me in the week to stretch, to rest, and to grow strong as an individual in the context of a community doing the same thing each at their own pace.