I’ve taken over 500 hundred yoga classes in my life, which might even be on the low end. But with all the yoga classes I’ve shown up to, none of them did more for me than the one where I unrolled my brand spankin’ new mat for the first time, still smelling of fresh rubber and plastic. You might be thinking, there’s no way a single 75 minute vinyasa flow could actually change your life. Yet, that’s exactly where you’re wrong. In fact, it’s only those 75 minutes that will change your life, the classes that follow are simply a continuation of the path you’ve started down. But if you never opt to enter a lavender-scented studio again, here’s why a single class is still worth your time.
Yoga offers a different work-out experience than other fitness classes. Depending on the type of yoga, you can build an unbelievable amount of strength, balance, and flexibility over time. In fact, one could argue that yoga is the only thing you need to stay in shape..but more on that later. Although the results are similar to other physical activities, yoga opens up your mind along with your body. Your first class is, often times, the first instance you view your body as vessel. Which means what, exactly? Well, while we know we have a mix up of bones holding us upright and blood streaming through our veins inside, yoga opens our eyes to the other parts. Ya know, the other things. It’s our bodies that hold our thoughts, our souls, our breath and all of our love (which can be heavy). They might not show up on an x-ray, but they’re in there, #trust.
When you’re on your mat, you are working on more than your physical presence. You’re working on how to use these other parts to make you better as a whole. When our breath matches our movement, when our thoughts reflect how we want to feel, when our love is for ourselves and not just given away, we are far more successful in whatever we wish to accomplish. And here’s the thing that yoga teachers don’t tell you—>Once you’ve opened up this new way of thinking, you can’t go back. You’ll be putting the same intention into all of your routines. Spin class? Are you inhaling strength and imagining your legs moving with ease? You will be now. Stressful meeting? Are you recognizing these feelings and working through them rather than pushing them away to only pop up later? You betcha.
You view your body as constantly evolving. Rather than always putting yourself at a beginning point and believing you can’t be content until you achieve x, y, and z, yoga meets you where you are. Every pose can be modified or amplified to fit you, not the other way around. One yoga class shows you how so little time can change so much. You’re beginning downward dog will be stiff, calves tighten, shoulders crunched, neck strained. And then, you do it again. And again. And by your fourth downward dog, yous heels dip a bit lower, your shoulders slowly sink away from your ears and you release your neck. An extended amount time is not always needed for growth and progress, just a little yoga-teacher-assist can change the entire way you view your body: the tensing up you have an idea you were doing, the habitual clenching you hadn’t bothered to notice.
You learn to do you best, and recognize how that will differ from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Your best is going to change, and that’s okay. The beginning of class your strength might allow you to hold you plank with the fierceness of a warrior king, but six chaturangas later your best might be belly-flopping to the ground #beentheredonethat. When you redefine ‘doing you best’, you can treat yourself with a gentleness and kindness that replaces the negative talk you have when you didn’t do what you *thought* you should be capable of doing. We are always capable, it’s the objective that you must allow to shift.
Lastly, yoga introduces you to the view that by working on yourself, you on working on everything around you. Your family, your friends, your community. Yoga itself means unity, and by finding the open parts of you and filling them up with the goodness, you are better able to serve yourself and others. A sentiment I use often in my classes: you can not pour from an empty cup. Looking out for yourself is not selfish, but the most generous thing you can do.
Like a dam with a single crack that inevitably will open up for floods of water pouring out, yoga offers a similar experience within our bodies. Once we allow ourselves to crack, even just a little bit open, it’s hard, nah, impossible, to stop us from overflowing with the benefits yoga has for us.
Taking one yoga class opens all of these modes of thinking, about our bodies, our minds, and everything surrounding them. So even if you never roll out your mat again, you have created a passageway to viewing yourself, and others, with a kindness and sensitivity that can’t be undone. Even more likely, once you step off your mat, you’ll be counting down the minutes until you can step back on it. But hey, that could just be me.
Have you tried yoga? What’s the one thing stopping you if you haven’t? I’d like to know!