Saturday, March 5, 2016

Yoga--Not Just a Phase

Full disclosure time: I have to admit that last year, when I first decided to start a yoga practice, I wasn't sure if I would stick with it. I'm one of those people who doesn't always have that stick-to-itness (and maybe you're in that club, too?).

Yet here we are, just about a year later, and I'm still engaging in this peaceful and mindful practice. To be honest, some weeks have gone by when I didn't bring out my mat. My home office is a prayer room/writing office/private yoga space, so I go into it often enough, but there were a couple weeks here and there that went by during which I didn't spend any time in my practice.

Interestingly, it mattered that I didn't. There was a difference, especially when it came to my problems with anxiety and stress, and I found myself returning to the mat.

Besides helping me manage stress better, yoga has been very beneficial to me in other areas. It's true what people say--you DO find yourself eating healthier, reaching for fruits more often than sweets or carb-laden chips. There are other benefits, too, other reasons to spend a half hour or more in your yoga space.

Have you flirted with the idea of making yoga part of your life? Or maybe, like me in the past, you went to a few classes, loved it but haven't made time for it again in your busy schedule?

After only one year as a "yogi" (love that!), here is my encouragement and advice to you:

1. Like any other lifestyle change/exercise (even though yoga is more than just exercise), consult with your doctor before starting.

2. Respect your body. When I first started last year, I watched videos and felt daunted by the fact that I wasn't as "bendy" as the instructors. My heels still don't totally touch the ground when I move into downward facing dog, nor do I sit cross-legged with my ankle up on my thigh. That's okay. That's why they call it a practice. Yoga is about more, much more, than just being "bendy."

3. Don't be overwhelmed by the different styles of yoga. Hatha, bikram, ashtanga, vinyasa--it's so easy to be intimidated by all the "arms"! The old adage really does apply here: "Everybody has to start somewhere." Though I have had a wonderful, real LIVE instructor, I've also relied a lot on YouTube videos. There are a plethora of them. Look for the words beginners, gentle, and even for seniors. Here is a good description of some yoga types.

4. You don't have to be skinny or have a 6-pack to do yoga. So if you were thinking about using this as an excuse, please don't! Don't cheat yourself out of this pleasure. On Pinterest somewhere, I came across these words: "This is the body I bring to my yoga mat." Over the course of this year, I've silently said these words as I unroll my mat. If anything, yoga will make you more accepting of your body.

5. All you need is a yoga mat and comfortable clothes. You don't have to buy everything all at once, especially when you're first starting. Little by little, you can decorate your space with plants and candles, and when you're ready, add a yoga strap, blanket, blocks, whatever you'd like. The same applies to clothes: a loose-fitting tank top and comfy leggings will work just fine. When you're ready, treat  yourself to pair of fun & colorful yoga pants!

What about music? You might want to set up your phone or Ipad to softly play yoga/spa music. YellowBrickCinema on YouTube has some beautiful, hours-long music to calm you and help you get centered.

6. Life happens. It also gets in the way. Don't come down on yourself; don't tell yourself you're not dedicated or serious all because some time passes before you return to your practice. No matter how committed you are to something, there'll be times when you don't unroll that mat, be it for reasons of being extra busy at work, family commitments, or health-related problems. Whenever possible, come back to it. Your practice will be waiting for you.

7. Make time for yoga. Make time for you. Yoga is something you do for yourself. Cut out half an hour of TV-watching or start to bed 20 minutes earlier, giving yourself a chance on your mat. If you make time for a vigorous workout, you can make time at least a couple times a week, if not more, for yoga.