So, this blog comes to you from someone who previously thought yoga was simply just stretching. Well, I decided to start taking classes back in June, and I am forever a changed woman.
For starters, just for some comical background, I have NEVER been flexible. I vividly remember when I was in fifth grade my dad took me to my gymnastics class, and he said we were never coming back. I was in a class with 4 year olds who were legitimately all better than I was. After a few months in the class I still couldn’t do a cartwheel, backbend, or even touch my toes for that matter. I basically gave up on all things requiring flexibility because those were embarrassing times. (I actually thank my dad for pulling me out of that class. Parents are there to tell you when you’re making a fool of yourself, even when you’re 11).
Jumping back to present day, I decided to start taking yoga classes because I wanted to become more flexible for running. I had heard from multiple people that yoga can make you a better runner. After I looked at the gym’s class schedule, I found a class from 7-8am 2 days a week. There really were no excuses since that’s before my work day begins. My first day in class I felt so out of my element. The instructor was calling the names of poses, and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I was a pose behind the entire class, and apparently this class was *vinyasa yoga*, not just your run of the mill stretching class. By the end of the hour long class I had sweat through my shirt like I had just ran! I told myself that I was going to keep attending, though, because flexibility really was something I needed to work on.
The purpose of the word “namaste” is to display respect for yourself and for each other (1). Considering I go to yoga first thing in the morning, I don’t think that’s a bad way to start my day. It’s important to be aware of the respect you have for yourself and others. It’s not a chant or a mantra; it’s a reflective word. I know that’s something I was a little confused about at first, so I’m sure I’m not the only one!
It’s now been four months since I started going to yoga, and I absolutely love it! I’ve learned so much, and the flow of vinyasa yoga has gotten easier (even though I still sweat the entire time). As a beginner, here are some take-away points I have for anyone interested:
- Yoga is an individual practice: don’t compare yourself to others in the class. Do what you can, and modify where you need to. Be your best self, not someone else’s best self.
- The breathing you use in yoga helps in your everyday life! I was recently at the orthodontist and all the stuff they had in my mouth was very uncomfortable. Instead of dwelling on the discomfort I focused on my breathing, and before I knew it they were done!
- Laugh it off anytime you fall out of a pose! Everyone in the class is learning and trying to improve, so if you fall out of a pose, shake it off and try again! I think that’s a great attitude to have towards life as well. Anytime you mess up, laugh it off and try again. Don’t take yourself too seriously because life’s too short for that!
- Build relationships! Everyone who is in class with you was a beginner at some point in time, or they might have started at the same time as you. Laugh together, build together, and hang out together! Find someone to grab lunch or coffee with you after class. Each friendship you make is accountability to help you get to class every week. Maybe that person is the instructor! I know my instructor will ask me why I missed class, and she now knows poses that I struggle with and can help me get better at them.
Studies have shown that life is better with yoga for breast cancer survivors (2)! As with beginning any new form of exercise, though, talk with your health care provider. Overstretching can damage joints and ligaments, so you may want to start with low-impact yoga! Check out our SurviveAL website for some more information on exercise and yoga for breast cancer survivors (3).
*Vinyasa yoga coordinates movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. It’s basically cardio yoga, and I thought I was going to pass out the entire time. I never wanted to hear the words “chaturanga dandasana” ever again.
My yoga instructor in the Birmingham area is Cheyenne Batson. Her business Facebook page can be found at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/LittleFoxYoga16/
She also took the header photo.
Kayla Lewis, BS