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How I Fell Into Yoga

April 5, 2013

Well, we did it. We bought our first home. It’s official: we’re moving to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, Northern California this summer. I still cannot really believe that we will get to live in a real house with rooms after 14 years of apartment and dorm living! Of course I’ll tell you much more about our new city and area as time goes on, but for now please know that if it has been a little quiet on the blog, it’s because we’re consumed with flurries of emails to and from our realtor and seemingly as many decisions as it took to plan our wedding. It is incredibly exciting and also nerve-wracking to make such a big purchase with so many hopes and dreams attached to it. All of the sudden, the paint swatch section at Home Depot is my favorite place to be and I think about buying pretty much every kind of insurance that exists.

So anyway, onto the actual post you may want to read! I am definitely not any sort of expert on yoga. I’m really only an intermediate beginner. Or maybe a beginning intermediate. I fall out of Half Moon Pose more days than not. But, I thought maybe some of you might be like me, either thinking that you’d like to try yoga, or sort of barely sticking your toe into the yoga pool and wondering what all the fuss is about.

It took me years to lean into doing yoga. Years! My friend Kim is a knowledgeable yogi, and encouraged me to try it forever. I don’t know why I never dove into it, since on paper it looks like it would fit me well. I went to a few yoga studios with Kim in Nashville and felt great afterward, but didn’t do more than dabble socially like that for quite a while.

Then, in this past year or so, I began realizing that I wasn’t okay with how anxious I felt. I think for a long time I figured that was just how life had to be, and it didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t balanced or enjoyable to live under the constant weight of my to-do lists. Everyone says yoga is good for stress, so I figured I might as well give it a whirl.

I tried a yoga class or two here in Tuscaloosa and liked them. I asked Kim for a good brand of yoga mat, and then asked David to get me a pretty teal one for my birthday. My super-fit sister sent me a couple of her favorite yoga DVDs. I got a very basic book to try to understand what I was supposed to be doing in the poses. And pretty soon I was rolling out my mat in our spare bedroom (in between our bikes, desk, couch, dog leash, ottoman, you get the idea) and doing some of the DVD sequences.

Now, here’s the thing that I hope might resonate with some of you. When I first started, I only did 3 or 5 or maybe 10 minutes of yoga before I felt like it was boring and I had to stop and get on with doing other things. Yes, that’s right, I was so wound up and tense that I couldn’t focus long enough to do the yoga that was supposed to help me feel less wound up and tense. But little by little, I started to catch onto the breathing better, and I started to be able to slow down and be a little more present in my practice for longer bits of time.

And then, while I was still barely even dabbling, a funny thing happened. I had a particular week that was personally challenging. I had to speak up for myself, set boundaries, and confront patterns that were working against me. For a while after that, I couldn’t stand the thought of going to the gym. All I wanted to do was get on my yoga mat. Isn’t that odd? I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the mind-body connection so clearly before. I think I needed a physical way of processing those emotions/experiences and grounding myself, and yoga was it.

Now when I look at the clock, it usually seems like 10 minutes of yoga have flown by, and 20 or 25 pass pleasantly. It is not the same all the time, but often I find myself really craving yoga and looking forward to it. Some of the harder poses are getting easier, and my muscles seem strong, solid, and worked. Not exactly like when I strength-trained with weights, but similar in some ways. My limbs and core settle into the patterns of poses easily and happily. It feels like I am working with my body instead of against it.

Another change over time is that I no longer feel dependent on a DVD, book, or CD to guide my practice. I never thought this would happen, but I’ve started stringing together the poses I like best, or the ones that I feel like doing at the time. It works well because I can make my time as vigorous or gentle as I like, and I don’t have to wait for Trudie Styler or Rodney Yee to get around to my favorite moves.

So anyway, I just wanted to share that in case some of you are wondering why people seem so into yoga, or puzzling over whether or not it will ever be your “thing.” I’m happy now that I dawdled and dabbled in it for as long as I did. I’m glad it is a regular part of my days and weeks. Do you have a favorite yoga book, DVD, or supplier of mats and props? Has yoga made you a calmer, more balanced or peaceful person?

Have a great weekend, everyone! We are having nice spring weather here (besides the layer of yellow pollen constantly covering cars and patio furniture), and I’m excited to head to our first university baseball game of the season tomorrow on a sunny, 70-degree afternoon. Batter up!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

katie April 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm

i am still such a dabbler. but maybe one of the most important things is not giving up. reading about your progress inspires me to keep at it. i often think about something you shared with me–that one pose of yoga everyday is better than going to a class a week. that helps me to pull the mat out.

i am a little embarrassed by this recommendation because i tend to eschew celebrity publications, but i really liked christy turlington’s living yoga : creating a life practice. it isn’t really a how-to book, but more of a journey into yoga book. even though i read it years ago, i find myself thinking about it still sometimes.

hope you enjoyed the baseball game.

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granolagrits April 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Ooh, I will look for the Christy Turlington book! Thank you for the rec! I know, I feel the same way when I tell people that Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Life” is really a worthwhile cookbook. :)

I also feel so much better knowing that a pose a day counts for something, and it is not just about blocking out hours or a couple hours for a class. Definitely makes me want to pull the mat out too! And feel less guilty when I only do a few!

The baseball game was perfect- warm, sunny, peaceful, lots of runs!

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Gay Katilius April 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’ve tried yoga over the years by going to classes, but I always felt like I was clumsy and uncoordinated, and gave up before the end of the sessions that I had paid for. I’m going to get a book from the library and try some poses myself and see if I can just find some that I like!

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granolagrits April 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I hope you do find some you like! Good luck, AGG! I bet CA libraries have some good yoga books. Plus, if you try at home, you have the added benefit of just doing it whenever you want without worrying about a class schedule, what to wear, driving anywhere, or doing a whole hour if you don’t feel like it. I also feel fairly uncoordinated, but I have noticed that the longer I’ve been practicing, the more some poses feel more balanced and I don’t tip out of them or feel like my hand can’t get where it is “supposed” to go. And I think maybe props like blocks and blankets may help you balance and get in the right positions, but I do not know anything about those. :) Also, I think you can kind of make the poses “your own?” I am not an expert, but it seems to me I’ve seen someone say that there is not one exact position everyone should be in, it is more like doing the pose the way your body does the pose? Anyway, I hope it starts becoming clear either one way or the other, that yoga is your thing or is not! Maybe meditation is just your thing and not actual yoga! I still cannot meditate, so you are way ahead of me there. :)

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