My confession: yoga annoys me.
Or at least it used to.
In my first yoga class a decade ago, I spent the hour looking around the room cursing under my breath at all the bendy people who could easily touch their toes or sit comfortably cross-legged for 10 minutes. And I particularly hated the fact that it didn’t seem to bother anyone else that others were more flexible or grounded or strong. Where was the sense of competition?
My athletic life has always been built around sports or races: hockey, softball, half marathons, and triathlons. I love the feeling of crossing a finish line, or winning a hockey game. And I even like losing games, because at least it gives a clear result.
So, the idea of yoga being a never-ending “practice” blew my mind. What are we practicing for? When’s the event? How do you know if you’ve achieved your goals?
But when I hurt my knee a couple of months ago and couldn’t run, I decided that perhaps it was time to explore the world of yoga to see if it could help me rehab and build my core strength.
This is when I announced to my friends and family that I was going to do a 30-day yoga challenge.
This was a way to put yoga on my terms: I had a clear goal and would know when I accomplished it. So I embarked on a month of exploring all different styles of yoga and really immersing myself in this world of “practice”. And what I discovered amazed me.
The physical benefits were great but the biggest reward was what I learned about myself.
I learned that when you let go of fear, you can do amazing things.
I usually stick to the beginner poses because surely I could never do crow pose, right? Well, doing yoga everyday made me want to try more new things because if I fail, I know I have 7 chances a week to get it right.
And I realized that not only were there some poses that I could do, the act of just trying them was way more fun than not! No, I still can’t do crow pose but I can do a headstand, hold eagle pose endlessly, and can even do Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (google that one…)
I learned why yoga is a practice, and not a game/sport/goal.
There is an amazing amount of peacefulness that comes from giving yourself permission to be exactly where you are. Sports and races are all about getting somewhere and becoming better, faster, and stronger. I found that by giving myself permission to be in my practice every single day, without setting an end result, I felt more confident, proud and in touch with who I really am.
And who I am is awesome, even if I can’t touch my toes.
I learned that commitment is a beautiful thing.
I knew that no matter what else was happening that day, I would find time for yoga. We became friends and I relied on yoga to pull me through some tough days.
It’s scary to commit to something you’re not sure you can accomplish but there is no better feeling than the realization that you’re as strong, passionate, and able as you always thought you could be.
I’m excited that my true yoga journey is only just beginning, and although I will always love the feeling of making a PB in a race, I can’t wait to get back on my mat.