I got sick of hearing about yoga. Yoga this. Yoga that. People would learn that I was a fitness buff, and they’d naturally assume that I was into yoga.
But I wasn’t.
I had some strange, irrational distaste for yoga. I like running and lifting and pushups. I didn’t get yoga. I thought it wouldn’t fit in my “manly” exercise regimen. In fact, I was known to diss yoga and talk smack on its devotees on a regular basis.
I was under the false impression that yoga was simply a matter of posing and breathing, with maybe some goofy chants tossed in for good measure. It’s not really fitness, I mistakenly thought, just some Eastern spiritual mumbo-jumbo.
So, well, yeah… I was wrong.
Yoga is Humbling
Not. So. Much.
I have to admit, it kicked my ass.
Turns out it wasn’t so easy for me to be hyper-aware of every movement and spasm of my body, observing the rhythmic patterings of my heartbeats and breath, all the while moving slowly — yet deliberately — through a series of challenging poses.
My competitive nature didn’t help the situation, either, as I was constantly focusing on what other people in the class were doing, rather than turning my focus inward as yoga tradition dictates.
I walked out of that class, arms and legs twitching, with my pride slightly wounded, but intrigued by the humbling experience.
Since then I’ve been forced to eat several helpings of crow, admitting to my girlfriend and several other friends and acquaintances that maybe my hasty dismissal of yoga was somewhat less than logical.
But being both stubborn and competitive, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? I vowed to learn about yoga and get the most out of it.
By doing some research, continuing with yoga classes twice a week, and learning as much as I could from the top yoga practitioners in my area, I’ve grown a newfound respect for the practice.
Mind, Body, Soul
Once I opened my mind and removed the blinders, I became very intrigued by not just the physical virtues of yoga, but also how the mental and spiritual aspects (which I had foolishly thought of as silly superstition) are directly connected to the physical.
Yoga brings awareness to your entire being, physical, mental, and spiritual, and once you get the hang of it, all these aspects are tied up together, so much so that you can hardly distinguish them as separate entities; it’s all one package. The philosophy behind yoga is very in-depth, forcing discipline of the mind and the purity of the body, and most importantly, the interconnection between these things.
As I mentioned previously, as a hyper-competitive dude, my chief struggle with yoga was that it is inherently non-competitive. It’s about bridging the gap between mind and body, learning to listen to your inner-self and true-being and living in the moment, knowing that there is nowhere in the world you would rather be than where you are right now.
That’s a tall order. Achieving those aims is not possible if you are focusing on what others in the room are doing and trying to one-up them.
This proved to be a significant departure from my normal exercise routine (and my entire life, for that matter). There were no numbers to attach to my goals. No time to aim for. No amount of pounds to try to lift. Just the slow and painstaking process of learning to love myself for who I truly am inside, getting to know my body, my mind, and my soul.
If that sounds deep, well, it is.
I didn’t know it at first, but these extra layers of depth turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Health Benefits Galore
But you shouldn’t get the idea that yoga’s benefits are mainly of the philosophical or spiritual. From a purely physical, fitness and health point-of-view, the benefits of yoga are astonishing. I won’t recap them in their full detail here (that could be an entire article in and of itself) but it has benefits from the head to toes, the brain to the heart, and all points in between.
So, needless to say, after committing to a regular yoga regimen and boning up on my yoga knowledge, I’m singing a different tune than I was a few short months ago.
I “get it” now.
Bottom line: yoga has complemented my other workouts and has brought a sense of peace that overcomes me after a session, an aura of optimism and well-being that I carry throughout the remainder of my day.