My first ever experience with Yoga came when I got to Florida before my first ever pro baseball season My mom had given one of those Byron Baptist yoga DVD’s with a mat and some blocks and said I should give it a try. So, one afternoon, in the little empty college townhouse room that I was crashing on before Spring training started, I slipped the DVD into my computer ad gave it a try. First impression: this is stupid. It was boring, way to fru-fru and spiritual for me I felt, especially with those damn cross-legged “om” chants at the end. So, I slipped the DVD’s into the bottom of my bag and went about my life.
A good 5 years later, baseball was over, and I had dedicated my time to training for my first marathon. Now, as an avid runner that this point, I was becoming quickly aware of the stigma of runners, tight as hell! So, I wanted to find a way to keep my flexibility and mobility even while looking ridiculous miles each and every week. So, I began doing a little research to maybe join a yoga class near by. I tried a couple places, and while I felt better than my DVD yoga trial, I still didn’t feel any sort of connection to the whole process. I honestly felt that all I needed to do was commit to stretching for a good 15-20 minutes after each workout I had and I would get all the same benefits. Still, I could not really find a logical argument against the millions of people worldwide who so passionately practiced yoga. The history of it, the greater benefits of it, not just increased flexibility and mobility, but strength both outwardly and inwardly. If so many people could feel so great about it, I wanted to feel great about it too!
I finally found a cool little place that practiced a form of yoga called Ashtanga. What attracted me to the place was it offered classes at a time that worked really well for me, the instructor for those times was an avid ultra runner, and Ashtanga, from what I could understand, was a pretty “strong” style of yoga. Very quickly I found out what all the hype was about! I hit a sort of “zone” within my second class and I just focused in on each and every movement and pose, trying to connect my breathing with each movement and trying to sink further and further into each pose. I was by no means “good” at yoga (what I mean by this is that I couldn’t even come close to finding the positions most of the other practitioners were finding), but the positive support by the instructor kept me going. This helped me realize that being “good” at yoga simply means you understand how to practice in the moment. It means you’re not crazy restless, looking around, thinking about random other things and so on. The second you are able to just exist for each breath, movement and pose, you become a yogi, and that’s what all the fuss is about!
I practice Ashtanga for about 6 months, twice a week without fail. Then, once my marathoning took a turn for the crazy (doing one every month, and doing that damn 50-miler), I just sort of stopped going. Until now. I have thought about returning for a couple years, I even took a class here and there at other locations, just never found that groove again. But now, I am about a month into the same class schedule I have almost 3 years ago and I am really feeling all the positive effects yoga has to offer.
Now, I realize that everyone’s practice means something different to each person. And this of course, is what I like so much about it all. But what I personally like is that I have an organized time slot where I can focus my mind and body in on the same thing. Each time I go in I am asked to push my mobility and strength to new limits, all while straying inward and focused. It is hard work but is SO rewarding each and every minute! I normally don’t like repetitive, redundant things, they tend to bore me; but for some reason, the amount of focus I put into all of this allows each movement to feel totally different each time. It’s a pretty cool experience.
So, if you are a yoga practitioner, keep up the good work (and make sure it’s not the ONLY thing you doing for fitness!). If you are not, if you’ve tried it and don’t like it, or if you’ve never tried it at all, take a new approach and give a fair chance. I would generally make a pretty confident assumption that if you don’t like it, it probably has less to do with the yoga, and more to do with your inability to focus. Take the time to find an instructor you have confidence in, and a space you feel comfortable in, and then begin to focus on YOU!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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