Yoga + Mental Health // How Yoga Transforms You
I get asked a lot about how I got started with yoga. While I'd love to say "commit to 5 classes and then let me know how YOU feel" - it’s not enough to ask people to try it out for themselves as it is to share personal anecdotes - so here goes, this is how my journey with yoga first started, and how it has transformed me.
A lot of my friends and family have told me “yoga just isn’t for me!” - here’s what I think about that statement:
a. I don’t believe that for a second. I truly believe that yoga is for everybody - and that it’s only a matter of time before it finds you and,
b. Yoga is for you, as it is for everybody.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER
Trust me when I say I get it, I couldn’t stand yoga the first time I tried it, and the next, and the time after that. This was back in college, I signed up for a 1 credit yoga class that met once a week. I was told it was an easy A (you just had to show up), yet getting through it was anything but.
The poses felt awkward, I couldn’t focus on anything, my mind was distracted by anything and everything - from how others might be thinking about my lack of coordination, to what I could be doing instead. The movements felt too slow, and I much rather be spinning or running than doing this. Thinking back, I fell victim to every yoga complaint that ever existed.
But then something happened - fast forward 2 years later, I had started working at my “dream” job, and to get there, I hustled through the entire job hunting process as a means to numb my mind from the loss of a loved one. I was getting anxiety attacks weekly, and starting work didn’t help. So when I saw that there was a studio not too far from my office, I thought to myself, Why the hell not give it a go?
THE HONEYMOON PERIOD
I hate to say this, because they all say it, but yoga truly found me when I needed it the most. I will always remember the euphoria I felt after a yoga class those first few months, there was a general aura of peace that surrounded me, and carried with me the few hours that came after. Even though my body was always so sore after class, I couldn’t wait to get more.
It took me a while to figure this one out, but it was through listening to my teachers, and really tuning in to my breathing, that allowed my mind to stop turning. And then it all made sense, when I am practicing yoga, I can surrender all other senses and just focus on the present moment.
Suddenly, all these quotes I read about "being present" made sense, and this one below by Buddha in particular became a mantra that I would echo to myself whenever I find myself worrying:
“Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
MY TAKEAWAYS: So how does it transform you?
It gives you control over your mind.Yoga has helped me to conquer my worst demon - the negative talk and worry that once consumed me.
It teaches you how to breathe.I can’t emphasize this enough, but breathing consciously is key to bringing yourself to the present moment.
It challenges you to sit through troubling times and get through tough sh*t.Life can get challenging, but if you can sit through a split, you sure as hell can get through whatever life throws your way.
It helps you develop a meditation practice.Yoga is not a workout, it’s a moving meditation that allows one to reflect and introspect.
It gives you a strong, healthy body.Believe me, one day, your chaturanga will feel natural, and a downward dog will be restorative. Your body will change, and you’ll stop worrying about silly things like seeing folds when you sit or underarm flab. Instead, you’ll appreciate how much your body can do and all the little details that make your practice unique!
Yoga is something I love (if you can’t already tell) - it’s helped me live more purposefully and freely while accepting myself, flaws and all.
I hope this post was helpful and inspires you to try this practice out!