Yoga: Is It All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

When I chose to start doing yoga, I did it for several reasons. First, I had turned 40 and I realized my body wasn’t reacting to my regular exercise routines the way it once did. By the way, that was eye-opening and tough to accept. Second, I reached a point where I was tired of going to the gym and wanted to work out from home (a workout which didn’t include using a ton of equipment or the old tired videos I had always done). Third, I didn’t want to do anymore cardio-type exercising, which consists of jumping up and down with my knee injury screaming at me. Forth: I don’t enjoy lifting weights. And lastly, after decades of exercise, doing all the fads and old standbys, I needed a complete change.

I looked at a few exercise options. I had done a lot of palates through the years and considered doing that again but I was ready for something different and I wanted it to include a change in my mind-set. That’s when I thought maybe I’d jump on the yoga bandwagon. Now, I’ll admit, I always figured yoga was good for you but I also had a tainted view of it. I saw yogis as being pretentious and annoying, skinny and perfect, or vegans that stuck their nose down at anyone longing for a juicy burger. I suspected that although I’m coordinated, I would look like a fool trying to do positions and movements that I had never done before. The thought of going to a class where I just knew that everyone in it naturally could contort their bodies into odd positions as if they were auditioning for cirque du soleil, showing off in what I thought to be “required” difficult poses was, well…a turn off. Let’s just say that although you can always find a bit of smugness and pretention in areas of exercise, my initial and over-all view of yogis has changed.

When I decided I wanted to work out from home (no longer ok with paying expensive gym fees) I set out to find yoga workouts online from various websites and then headed over to YouTube in hopes of finding something free and worthwhile. I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but as I began my journey, I realized there was a whole world there waiting for me which I knew little about. I checked out some yoga instructors and began a few short workouts. I’ll admit I was a bit over-whelmed with all that is out there, especially since I knew little about Yoga or where to start, but I forged ahead. Within just those first few sessions, though, I realized that yoga was exactly what my body AND my mind was craving.

After trying workouts from a handful of different instructors I found the one that changed my life. Yoga With Adriene was the girl for me! She offers many various-type workouts depending on what you are in need of and most are for free on YouTube! She has yoga videos that range from de-stressing from a long day, yoga for anxiety, yoga for weight loss, videos that concentrate on particular parts of the body or a nice full body workout, yoga for back pain, and complete and amazing yoga series’ such as 30 Day Yoga Camp. The list goes on. Being a newbie I watched her beginner videos and then began her 30 Days of Yoga Challenge (this is a different series than Yoga Camp). I learned so much from this series. I’m still not the type of person who’s able to or even wants to do many of the difficult poses, although I’m excited to report that I can pull of the crow pose for a few seconds now, but Adriene doesn’t focus on these. You can add them into the workout as you see fit. She makes things flexible so a beginner and an advanced yogi can enjoy at their own level.

Adriene has a quirky, fun personality. She makes me smile. She really wants you to enjoy what you are doing and somehow you can feel that energy and her love of what she is doing through the screen. She teaches you meditation within the workout, and teaches you that “giving yourself permission” to take the time to do yoga is in your best interest. During a workout many of us are thinking about what we should be doing right then or what we’ll be doing after the workout but Adriene teaches you to let your mind focus on what you are doing at that very moment. You get so lost in doing Yoga that I found I couldn’t think about other things. I learned about mantras and how to be nice to my body and forgiving of my body. Instead of forcing myself into poses or stretches, or expecting things of myself that my body couldn’t give,  I learned to allow my body to work at it’s own level until it was ready for more difficult moves. I learned to “find what feels good” and sometimes go off the yoga track so that you’re doing what works for you instead of feeling like your workout was rigid, making it unenjoyable or frustrating. Some of her workouts are harder or longer than others but somehow I always get exactly what I need for a particular day. If during a workout I need a rest she taught me exactly what to do. I rarely felt frustrated because this was about me and my body, not about competition, or needing to look a certain way, or feeling I had to meet certain criteria.

Also, what I really appreciated about Adriene is the fact that she gives her subscribers equipment ideas of household items you can use instead of going out and buying all the yoga equipment available, which can get quite expensive. She reminds us that yoga is for everyone. Throw on a pair of old sweats and a tee shirt. You don’t need pricey yoga clothing. Just find something you will feel comfortable in and allows for movement. The only item she suggests getting is a mat but instead of using a yoga block, she tells you to get a book. Instead of a yoga band, go get a belt or rope. You can also use a blanket or pillow for other needs. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. I loved that she didn’t push products or advertise. It was all about yoga itself, not about what she could sale. The only thing she’s selling is the love of yoga and feeling healthy.

Within the first week of trying yoga I noticed a significant change in my body and mind. I was happier, felt rejuvenated, was calmer, more clear headed, and couldn’t wait for each workout each day. I combined meditation (which I already did) with yoga, minus the difficult poses (however, I’m trying more as I get stronger) and there wasn’t any chanting or feeling the need to memorize things. It was just a good, solid workout, and after I was finished I felt better mentally and physically. The workouts seemed to go by quickly because I was working hard at doing things correctly and learning breathing techniques so I could hold positions longer. Before I knew it, the workout was over and I was in Savasana (corpse pose, lying flat on my back), taking deep breaths and enjoying a moment of rest, quiet and relaxation, with a satisfied smile on my face. Well, until my dog licked my face, the cat laid on my stomach, or my son asked when it was time to catch the bus.

After over a year of doing yoga, I’m at a place now where I really notice when I’ve missed a day of getting on the mat. I don’t feel quite as good as I normally would. Strangely enough, without even thinking about it, my eating habits have also gotten better. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting to lose any weight or build muscle, I just wanted to feel healthy, however, one day after a few months of doing “Yoga With Adriene” workouts, I was sitting on the couch talking to my husband when I lifted my arm up and looked down to see this amazing bicep! Wow, I looked like I had been lifting weights. I didn’t expect that, yet my arms looked incredible! My husband also noticed my muscular back and I began to notice my legs toning up. Yoga isn’t easy but it has brought me joy and it’s exactly what my 40 year old body was in need of.

I realized that yoga is what you make of it. You don’t have to fit into this so-called yoga “mold”. It isn’t just about showing off in odd positions or doing difficult poses as I once thought. It isn’t about looking/dressing a certain way or being the right body-type. It can be exactly what ever you need it to be. So yes, yoga is what it’s cracked up to be, at least it was for me. Now it’s up to you to decide what yoga can do for you. Here are a few links of instructors for you to check out on YouTube in order get you started. Enjoy!

Yoga With Adriene

Brett Larkin Yoga

Yoga Journal

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