Going into this experience, I had so many assumptions and ideas about yoga and everything that surrounds the practice. It's been a few weeks since my first class and my initial thoughts have definitely changed. My assumptions have also been proven to be wrong many, many times. I am learning so much about the practice (and about myself) with each class I take and it's making this journey so exciting and rewarding. Here are 5 things I have been surprised to discover so far in my 4 weeks of Yoga.
1.) Don’t be scared to laugh at yourself.
Laughter really is the best medicine.
As I mentioned before, I tend to laugh whenever I feel awkward or uncomfortable. And let me tell you, this journey has proven to be a laugh riot. Yoga is a serious practice, but it's important to not take yourself completely serious. Even the instructors laugh and add comical banter throughout the class. Laughing during my practice, and knowing that it's okay if I fall out of a pose, has helped me step out of my comfort zone and really push myself.
2.) It’s okay to take breaks.
Just to be straight, downward dog does not feel anything like rest.
During my first CPY class, I felt defeated every time I had to take a “Child’s Pose” break. Since then, I have learned that it is completely okay to take a break. You need to give your body time to rejuvenate itself. If you push yourself too hard you are just going to end up doing the poses incorrectly and be even more sore the next day. Periods of rest will only enhance your relationship with yoga. It doesn't mean you're giving up- it means you're giving your body a chance to catch up. By doing this, you are showing that you are in touch and completely connected to your body- and this is what yoga is all about.
3.) Sweating is good for you.
Sweat today, smile tomorrow.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, I hate sweating. Like really hate it. But I am learning that it can really benefit your body. One class I showed up a little hungover (too many wines the night before). Honestly, I was exhausted, and exercising was the last thing I wanted to do that night (Yes, I was still hungover at 6pm. I’m 30 and don’t bounce back like I used to. Thanks old age!). But I pushed through and am so glad I did. When I arrived I had an awful headache, but as the class progressed my headache disappeared. I sweated a lot more than usual during this class (which I didn't think was possible) but I knew I was sweating out the toxins, and wine, in my body. I left the class feeling great and so refreshed! So if you ever need to get rid of a hangover, exercise!! I always laughed when people would say this, but I can now vouch that it's actually true.
Fun Fact: Did you know that sweating also produces endorphins that will actually make you happier?! And who doesn't like being happy? Read more about it here.
4.) You can never drink enough water.
Water, water and more water. Trust me.
Even if you think you drank enough water during the day, drink some more! It’s so important to hydrate before class, especially if it's a class where you are going to sweat a lot. When we sweat, our body is losing the nutrients that we need. Being fully hydrated helps our body replenish these nutrients and stay energized. Hydration will also help with muscle soreness. I was so sore the next few days after my first CPY class- to the point that it hurt when I laughed (and I laugh a lot). I am still sore after almost every class, but I am realizing that the more water I drink, the less it hurts the next day.
5.) Focus on progress, not perfection. Yoga is not a competition.
Stop competing with others and start competing with yourself.
Yoga is not about being perfect. It’s about feeling comfortable and confident in your body. Patience is something that I’m learning is very important when it comes to practicing Yoga. You can't expect your poses to become perfect overnight. Take small steps and celebrate these little improvements. Even the littlest step or improvement is a step in the right direction. I am so proud of all my small accomplishments so far, like being able to hold my downward dog pose for longer than 2 seconds. Even being able to make it through the whole class is something I like to celebrate (I usually celebrate with a glass of wine when I get home. I deserve it, okay?!).
There are going to be poses that you are good at and other poses that you just can't seem to master. But don’t get down on yourself! It's important to learn from one another, but be mindful not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is different and everyone's bodies move and stretch differently too. So don't get discouraged by the girl in front of you who makes the lotus pose look like a piece of cake! Just like Theresa and Calvin explain- it is important to all feel connected in Yoga. When you look at others practicing, let this be a learning experience. Observe how they make these poses their own, and use this as inspiration and encouragement for your own practice.
Get Out There And Try Something New!
I was so nervous going into this Yoga journey. I was scared I wasn't going to be good at it. I was scared I would fail. I was scared I would be judged or feel embarrassed. But most of all, I was scared to leave my comfort zone (a zone that involved zero exercise). I am beyond glad that I have stayed on path with this journey. I am realizing that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I am opening my mind and body to things that I never knew I was capable of. And this feeling of empowerment is making this journey so fulfilling. Now get out there and try something new! Leaving your comfort zone can be quite liberating.