Plenty of people wrinkle their noses when they hear I’m a yoga instructor
Assumptions, stereotypes and pictures of bendy people flash through their minds. Boom – a wall goes up.
“I don’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes. Watch…”
“Does that stuff really work?”
“I’m not flexible, I would never step foot in a yoga studio.”
Each person has his/her own reasons for to not try yoga. It’s not a new subject to debate either – even the origins of yoga are up for discussion – did yoga start 3,000 years ago or 5,000 years ago?
The most recent debate lingers over one complex question: Does yoga really live up to the hype?
While I can’t speak for others, I can only speak for myself and my experience with the practice.
Why I continue to get my lazy butt up (I really love lounging), put on my yoga pants (to, yes, do yoga), walk into the studio with other sweaty yogis, and lay down my mat. Day, after day, after day.
Where it All Began
I walked into my first yoga studio when I lived in South Korea in 2007. My teacher didn’t speak English to the class, but would whisper in my ear as she walked by, breathe in – breathe out.
The connection to my breath was the first thing I learned, and as I later realized, the most important part of yoga. NOT about whether or not I could touch my toes (I honestly can’t remember if I could touch them back then or not!).
Yoga then carried me through the stress of graduate school, surprise back pain in my early twenties, a move back to the states, and a toxic job environment.
A Yoga Advocate was Born
It was in that down place I heard about yoga teacher training – a deeper and fuller understanding of the practice I so loved. After I spoke with a friend that taught, I finally mustered the courage to take the leap of faith. I graduated in 2010 with my 200 RYT certification.
Teaching was a whole new form of therapy and healing for me. The more smiles I put on other people’s faces, the stronger I became. Just like that, I became the yoga girl. Advocate for the practice.
Converting Full-Time Partiers
My boyfriend at the time was in a rock band and successful on the local music scene. At after-parties, people would find out what I taught, and proceed through all the top three responses.
A little while later in the middle of the party, I would have them aligning their posture, breathing from their bellies and taking fuller breaths. If they really enjoyed it, I would lead them through a sun salutation, which is just stretching the arms up and then reaching towards the ground (read: towards the ground, not touching the ground).
They would finish all smiles, vowing to try out the practice. A lot of them did, many of the other bands practiced yoga on tour. Not because of me necessarily, but because it made them feel good. Traveling in a cramped vehicle, binge drinking, eating fast food, staying out into the wee hours of the morning took a heavy toll on their bodies.
I could see it in the dark circles under my boyfriend’s eyes when he would return home, but they would light up when he would proudly state they practiced yoga while in this state or that city, and left them feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for hours and sometimes days afterwards.
Me and My Anti-Mean Pill
That is just one small slice of yoga in the real world. I continue the practice to this day (and will continue some form of the practice until my last day on this earth), because without it, I’m a bitch. It’s that simple. Well, that, and back problems.
When I start to feel mean, lazy, sore and discontent, I think about when my last yoga class was. Usually, if it’s been a few days, I know I have to get back on the mat.
I fight with the thoughts, I don’t want to leave the house, I don’t want to put on my yoga clothes, I don’t want to walk (or drive!) to the yoga studio.
Then, once I’m there, I’m insanely happy. After class, with my joints stretched, my mind calm, and endorphins swimming through my veins, I smile and think, you’re so silly. When will you learn you have to get on your mat more? This feels so good!”
While there is a sad lack of scientific research on the practice, more and more information is coming out on how yoga affects the mind and the body.
So you don’t have to take millions of people’s word for it that say their energy, sex life, depression, anxiety, back pain, neck pain, stress, etc. has improved drastically with their start of the practice. We have science!
This is Your Brain on Yoga – Use of those fancy scanning machines to show the effects of yoga on the brain.
The Science of Yoga – A quick video about the amazing new book that takes a fully scientific look at the practice, and gathers all the scientific studies together in one place.
How Yoga Changes Your Body Starting the Day You Begin – An infographic made up of research on the practice.
Despite all this lovely paperwork, I know this in my bones:
1. People are not meant to be sedentary: Yoga uses the natural weight of the body to open up and gain strength in ways some exercise cannot provide (but by all means, WALK to your yoga class to get more cardiovascular benefits too!).
2. The body is not meant to crumple up like we tend to do with our posture: We use our body as a defense against the world around us – if we feel unsure or sad, the body crumbles into itself with rounded shoulders, a slouched back, and a folded belly.
When we are happy and proud, the body opens up with a long spine, squared shoulders and an open stomach. Good posture affects the mood, and a good mood effects the posture.
3. We were designed with our breath as a function for our body to operate: When there is less oxygen, there is less brain activity. So inevitably, our breath is our tool. Bigger, longer breath relates to stronger, happier mind AND body. Yoga is centered on the breath.
So, yes, I believe yoga really works
If you rolled your eyes during any part of this article, I challenge you to take five different yoga classes from five different teachers in five different styles of yoga.
See how to choose your first yoga class here. Then come back here and tell me if you didn’t enjoy at least one of them, and feel its positive benefits as well. I PROMISE one of the styles will connect with you.
What do you think? What type of yoga do you like or have you always wanted to try? I’d love to hear from you on Instagram