A few months back, a blogger I’ve been reading for years posted a beautiful picture, where she and her daughter are doing yoga outside, accompanied by a few words about starting with yoga and how it’s shaped her life in a short time. I always saw myself as more of a Pilates person per se, buying into the idea that yoga was for actual hippies, and not my style hippie, chanting chakras and meditating, never doing any “real” exercise. But with the Spartan Race then-rapidly approaching, and my running schedule consistently affected by late nights in the office, I decided to take advantage of the WiFi on my DVD player for something other than Netflix, and scrolled through some of the free yoga videos on YouTube.
I found a 30-day challenge with a yogi who seemed unintimidating and likable, and looked through a few videos at work one day. The workouts were all between 15 and 20 minutes, and she took the time to explain each step in a way I understood, despite having exactly zero experience or knowledge of yoga, outside of the difference between Down Dog and Up Dog. “You can do anything for 30 days, LB,” I thought the next morning, as I unrolled my newly-acquired yoga mat in the living room and turned on Day 1. “Just give it a month and see what happens.”
If there is ever an accurate time to say that I “ate my words” about anything, it was my perception for so long that yoga was “just poses” and “not enough” of a workout to satisfy my gym rat tendencies. Day 1 was a challenge, Day 2 was painful and by the time I woke up for Day 3, I seriously considered stopping, as my muscles protested being stretched in weird ways all over again, as my body realized that something as simple as holding a Down Dog for a minute will get your legs shaking with exertion, despite no movement. But I liked the yogi, and I liked how the quick morning exercise energized my day, so I kept going. I didn’t make it into crow pose that first time, almost laughed when she announced we’d be doing splits the next day, and felt like crying on the days leading into headstands. Somehow, despite feeling inadequate when I fell the first time we went into Warrior 3 and the infamous incident with the Crow-related chin bruise (ref.), I made it through the entire month unscathed – and found I was dying for more.
It’s strange how much the small bit of yoga I’ve been doing in the mornings (and now also the evenings) has transformed different aspects of my life. Physically, the difference is crazy. I went from barely able to keep my heels steady in 10-seconds of a Down Dog to heels completely flat with no problems, toppling over at the thought of Tree to balancing with ease, and I’m only about three inches away from a full split. Mentally, the change has been enormous. I’m an anxious personality and can get worked up very easily over nothing, obsess over a tiny detail as though it threatened to eat me. Taking anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour every day to stop, stretch, and watch my breath has calmed my anxieties, calmed my running mind, and helped me learn how to focus on the present, a lesson I try over and over again to reinforce in my life.
I won’t pretend to be an expert or even that I’m that good. Perspective: these little changes all came from YouTube videos. But yesterday, after exchanging some confusing words with a chapter in my chronicle I thought had closed, I went home and decided to practice headstand, something I’ve only been able to do with wall support in the past. I stretched out appropriately, moved my mat into position near the wall… and all of a sudden I eased into a full headstand, no wall support at all, and held the pose until my triumphant laughter and disbelief shook me back down to the mat. I texted half the people in my phone, so excited to have finally achieved what I thought was impossible, and spent the night in a full daze, dizzy with pride at how far I’ve come. A lesson I keep coming back to in my chronicle, in my life, is that it’s crazy how much can change in such a short period of time. It’s exciting to think what may be by the time I finally manage that full split.
Interested in following suit? You MUST follow the incredible Bad Yogi, Erin Motz. Day 1 of the 30-day Challenge referenced above can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wJtQjQ4HI8