Almost a year ago, I found myself standing on the yoga mat, watching the sunrise and trying to practice some sun gazing before my sun salutation series. In a moment of reflection, I froze and thought to myself, “Oh God, am I one of those people now?”
I just never thought I’d be the type of person who did yoga first thing in the morning, or read a spiritual book/day, for that matter. I never thought I would buy into any of the stuff yoga teaches.
But without thinking too hard about it, over the course of the past year, that is exactly what I have become.
A month before that particular moment I crashed physically and I couldn’t do any intensive exercises whatsoever. So I turned to yoga. I had done yoga before. In high school, my dad wanted me to visit some classes because he knew about the benefits. As many women do, I dealt with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, and as a result, my relationship with yoga was not a healthy one. I viewed it as a way to burn calories. I don’t need to add that I really didn’t enjoy it.
My history with yoga was not one of self-discovery, grace, or acceptance. It was the opposite. So when I re-visited yoga a year ago, I didn’t expect to like it. But my friend had invited me, it was free, and I was feeling stressed, so I thought it was worth a try.
In that first class, I got frustrated and sweat my ass off. It was uncomfortable. It didn’t feel good. But for some reason, I went to another class. And another… It began to feel okay, then it even felt good. Then things started happening to me mentally. I began to notice thoughts as they came in. I started paying more attention to where my head goes when it wanders, and to shifting my thoughts to things that are actually beneficial.
I started being more present in my day to day life.
I actively started trying to let things go that weren’t serving me anymore… things that I didn’t want to– or have to– walk with anymore. My yoga practice helped me give myself permission to let those things go.
I challenged myself physically. I saw my muscles get more defined and watched myself get into poses I had scoffed at only months before. I touched my toes easily, something I had never in my life been able to do.
I challenged myself mentally. I learned to focus on my breath not only in class but in life. I started to focus on presence without even trying.
I realized that the principles of yoga are the same lessons I fought to learn my whole life. The same themes of resilience, self-care, kindness, and courage that I had tried so hard to teach myself were things that yoga was now reminding me of.
Yoga is now something I carry with me everywhere. It’s something I do when I seek peace and a place I go when I seek challenge.
I turned into a yoga person slowly. Sometimes we build walls around ourselves to keep something out. I peeked over the wall I had built to close out things like yoga– things that were challenging, that I associated with judgment and “can’t.” I never thought I could be good at yoga, not realizing that there was no such thing.
I became a yoga person by doing yoga. But to do it, I had to try something new. I would never have known I liked yoga if I let the wall stay where it was. I never would have tried it if I had let my expectations stay where they were.
What walls have you built around yourself? Have you built them to keep out people and things you are afraid of, or intimidated by?
Make just one crack in your walls. Let a little light in. You might surprise yourself. You might find yourself breaking them down completely, and standing in a field of flowers instead. But you will never know if you let the wall stand.
I became a yoga person both accidentally and purposefully.
What I have gained most is this: when we let go of our expectations, we make space for all the possibilities we could have never imagined.
Here is a sequence of Sun Salutations in a way as I like to practice it. However, you’ll find a lot of different variations of it, so just dig into the one that suits you best…