It was a pain I’ll never forget. The previous evening I’d laced up my soccer cleats and headed to the field. I was about to attempt the seemingly impossible, my high school soccer fitness test. But running these sprints was something I hadn’t done in four years and I finished the test with burning lungs, heavy legs, and a feeling of defeat. When I got out of bed the next morning, I realized that 22 is very different than 17.
So I decided it was time to start doing what my body so desperately needed me to do – stretch. But not just a couple of toe touches and a few back bends, I needed more structure. I did my research and signed up for a local yoga studio. Now having a couple classes under my belt, I’d like to share with you four things I’ve learned as a beginner yogi.
1. Just because shes older than you doesn’t mean you’re going to be better than her
It was my very first class at this new studio; I walked in and as any unsure new comer, I headed straight to the back of the room. I took a cozy spot in the corner next to a woman who I’d guess to be in her 60’s. She, for sure, would be on the same level as I am. About 10 minutes into the class I realized I could not have been more wrong. I was still attempting to lean down and touch my toes without bending my legs when I looked to my right and saw her upside down doing a perfect and beautiful headstand. My first lesson of yoga had been taught. Just because she’s more than twice your age, do not underestimate her.
2. When they say listen to your body, listen to your body
After watching this woman so easily transition into a headstand and being as competitive as I am, I thought that I should just go ahead and give it a try. The instructor saw me struggling and gently reminded the class to just listen to what your body is comfortable doing that day. “Yeah yeah” I thought. That was in one ear and out the other as I continued kicking my legs up, in hopes of just ending up in the right position. It was probably on my fifth kick that I came crashing down on to the side, almost taking out that same nice woman who I so wished I could be right then. Lesson #2- actually listen to your body.
For anyone who’s new to yoga and would love to be able to do a headstand- from experience, I recommend first mastering the crow position and then progressing into an assisted handstand against a wall. After lots of practice try to move away from the wall and give it a go!
3. You aren’t always going to get it right away
Having been an athlete all my life, I’ve gotten used to picking things up fairly quickly. After seeing this fall, the instructor walked over to whisper that it’s okay to not get it all on the first day. I stuck around after that first class for 20 minutes trying to take it slower, listen to my body, and to get my legs where they needed to be. After those 20 minutes of falling over and over again, I realized that yoga might be different than most sports for me. Yes, I have improved over my practice, but I have also discovered that it does take patience and that I wasn’t going to get it right away.
Quick Tip: If you struggle with patience and rushing movements, I highly suggest focusing on the breathing techniques used in yoga. The careful planning and timing that the instructor indicates to breathe in and out can seem very redundant at first, but in following these instructions, you are allowing your body to relax and deepen in your stretch a little at a time. Once fully immersing myself into the breathing patterns of yoga, I found myself much more at ease and patient with my practice.
4. Yoga is absolutely a workout in itself
I joined this studio fully believing that I would just use it as a supplement to my workouts for stretching. I think out of everything I have learned from yoga so far, this has been the most important. Yoga is more than just a deep stretch; it is a full body workout. I find myself dripping sweat during those classes and my upper body strength has increased tremendously more than I could have ever expected. These experiences have completely changed my viewpoint on yoga and I now know that taking a class is definitely a full body workout.
Yoga is something that I plan to continue for the rest of my life, even once running sprints is no longer an option. I have a ton of newfound respect for those yogis that have been practicing for so long and I’ve learned so much from them. From a competitive athlete standpoint, you quickly realize that there is no one else to compete against in yoga except for yourself, and this new perspective has done wonders for me.
Image source: Blissology.com, The Lime Tree Yoga