I am very active, I enjoy lifting weights, running and playing all sports, but I had never tried yoga. I tried by first ever session two weeks ago, and have practiced every day since.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as an athlete I had always been interested in yoga, as I know the advantages that flexibility can give you. In fact, the real reason for starting was that I had just finished a book, ‘Can’t Hurt Me,’ by David Goggins. For me, this is the most inspiring book that I have ever read, and a willingness to practice yoga is perhaps the last thing that I expected to take from it.
I will not even begin to explain the shocking trials and tribulations that David talks about overcoming throughout his autobiography, but one of the most bizarre twists in the book is how the former Navy Seal, ultra-runner and pull-up world record holder is practically crippled by health problems. The reason that it is bizarre, is that after a long time of suffering, he realises that these problems occur due to tension in his muscles and a lack of stretching throughout his life. After stumbling across this revelation, David commits to a superhuman amount of stretching in order to correct his body, and soon becomes a big advocate of yoga.
Now I never intended to stretch for six hours a day like David, nor am I extremely tight or worried
about these kinds of health problems. However, it did instil in me the idea that stretching the body frequently is an investment that is going to pay off with huge health benefits in the future, as well as drastically reducing the chances of suffering from musculoskeletal injuries.
Although I have only recently tried yoga, I have been aware of the benefits of stretching for a while now. However, my previous approach had always been towards breaking down the fascia of the muscles with a foam roller and various other torture devices. This I found to be extremely effective, for solving specific mobility issues and nagging injuries. However, if you have tried it you will know that, pulverising tissue like this is far from an enjoyable experience.
Compared to this, yoga always seemed like a far gentler option. And so far, for me, it has been! That is not to say that it is all easy, there are have often been times of discomfort, where I have held stretches or tensed my core to the point of shaking. But these moments are intertwined with times of pure relaxation and freedom.
One of the things that I have found most interesting about yoga, is the art of the practice itself. The (beginner) sessions that I have engaged in have been all about ease, listening to your own body, pushing yourself as far as you like. For every pose there is a multitude of easier variations - and more difficult ones. The classes exude an atmosphere of non-judgement, everybody else is too focused on their own physical tasks to worry about how good your downward facing dog is.
As someone who has always pushed themselves in the gym and in sports to the edge of burnout, this provided me with a refreshing new view on healthy physical activity. In fact, it is something that I have now tried to incorporate into my other workouts, listening to my body. Push hard when you feel good, ease off when you don’t, that seems to be the aim of yoga.
And the best part of that, is that, as well as enjoyment, it leads to progression, perhaps quicker than if you were to push yourself towards injury, or quitting! Instead, it leads you on the path to enlightenment.
Which brings me to the the other reason for my interest in yoga. The mental benefits. Of course, yoga is very spiritual, it is as much a mental practice as it is physical. And of course it has strong links with meditation, with both stemming from Buddhism.
I have tried meditation, in fact I have done it a lot, and just like foam rolling, I have found it to be very effective. It allows me to focus my mind, to let go of anxiety and stress, to focus on the world around me. However, also like foam rolling, I have mostly stopped. Often I find it much like a chore, another task on the to do list to tick off. Many times I will find it boring, and although many times it is great to calm things down, sometimes I find excitement in the chaotic thoughts in my mind, and I do not want to shut them down to focus on my breath.
I have found yoga to be the perfect alternative. It allows for many of the same benefits, I am entirely focused on my practice, for the whole 15-30 minutes of my session. It is hard to be elsewhere in your mind when you are battling to hold a warrior pose. It allows for relaxation, and an amazing feeling in your stretched muscles, when you hold a child’s pose or a finishing Shavasana (lying down). And on top of those benefits, unlike mediation, it can be social. There is you and the class, or you and the instructor, sharing a little bit of peace and positivity together.
If you would like to try yoga, why not book one of our experiences with Maja, our expert instructor. Both group classes and private sessions are available and can be done at home over Zoom, you can follow along with Maja with your camera on, or off if you prefer, and she will guide you through the movements. My recommendation would be to have some fun and invite a friend along to share in a private session.