i convinced a friend who had never done yoga to go to yoga with me last week. THREE TIMES, no less. i was super proud of him--he did every pose without a whine or audible sigh of annoyance. he didn't even shoot me any "is she fucking kidding me?!" eyes during some of the more painful parts of the classes!
nope, my new-to-yoga bff stayed with his breath through it all. and, if you have ever done yoga, you know this is a feat. especially when new to the practice.
alas, after the three classes, i heard my friend saying that he really tried to like yoga, but he found some of the things annoying and didn't really want to do it again. i didn't say anything in the moment, but i felt a little heart broken at hearing that. what i saw in his yoga practice was something that was rare with many beginners: the dedication to staying in the practice. and i don't mean simply following the poses, i mean he didn't break concentration or breath, he really was looking for the yoga: the yoking; the union.
reflecting on his aggravation, though, i'm reminded of how long i hated yoga: about 5 years to be precise. i would go to yoga once a week because i thought i should. because i thought it would round out my workouts. because i wanted to tell people "i do yoga."
and then i thought of all the lessons i know NOW, and what i wish i had understood about yoga earlier. and so, dedicated to my bff who still has 3 weeks of paid-for classes to sneak his way in to, here are some of the things i wish i had known:
1) yoga is hard for everyone. the person who is rocking every handstand might have a killer time trying to get into splits. the person flopping into forward folds so easily could be very upset about not being able to hold an arm balance. the person who seems to have most of the yoga class sorted could secretly not be trying any of the harder variations because they are afraid of change and terrified that someone might notice that fact. the person who is flowing perfectly through every pose likely has a mind
screaming "you should be doing it better" that they are trying to calm.
knowing that yoga is hard for everyone--but in different ways--is the first thing you have to remember. and then, you let the breath enter the equation and allow yoga to be the great equalizer that it is. yoga will even out your body side to side and strength to flexibility and balance. it will bring together your mind, body, and breath. and it brings US together as a community as well.
2) you can hold that warrior 2. when something is hard in yoga, and you think you cannot
stand one more second of it, know that you can, and then just decide to
do it. the teacher won't ask you to hold something longer than you
and there are two things that happen when you hold the pose as
long as the teacher plans: first, as kelli so elegantly put it this
weekend, you train your brain to know that you CAN do things that at
first seem impossible. and, secondly, you transform.
literally and figuratively. breathing through that fire that builds up
in your legs, or your belly, or your shoulders is HOW you change.
3) yoga makes your LIFE better. yoga is sneaky in the ways it changes your life, but the most practical way i can explain it is through the shifts: every time you don't understand something your body routinely does in yoga (why you always lift your first knuckle when your hands are meant to be flat on your mat, pressing down through the ridge of the palm and taking weight out of the wrist, for example), it is practice for learning how to approach patterns you don't understand in your life off your mat. like "why do i always respond to my partner's jokes with animosity, even though i know they don't mean them to hurt me?"
these patterns in our body reflect the patterns in our lives. each little shift we find in our yoga practice--which continues to happen F.O.R.E.V.E.R in yoga--is retraining your brain to respond more effectively in life. every time i find a shift in a pose, i notice a shift in my life outside of the yoga studio. the act of hitting a new arm balance will carry with it a little shift in understanding in your brain that rewires how you understand something and will allow you to see something else differently later in your day or week. the confidence you gained from holding that arm balance will likely double the impact in your life. HOW COOL IS THAT?
mainly this blog is to say: stick with it. everyone is a newbie at some point. and the best thing about being new to yoga is that you get to have SO MANY little shifts and revelations, and that they will seem to come so quickly! look for them. examine and notice and take joy in the process. i promise it will serve you off the mat in ways you never imagined.