When I walked into Zuda Yoga six months ago, it was for a 40 Day Transformation Challenge that I joined for one reason: to lose weight. I’d been to one class, and it kicked my ass, and I thought that this would be a killer way to kickstart some weight loss and healthy habits.
I wasn’t wrong. But what I didn’t anticipate was that this yoga would shift my entire life. Truly.
I know people think I am 100% crazypants when I talk about yoga. I’ve become that person. And I’m totally okay with that.
This week marks six months since I started practicing yoga regularly. It will also mark my 100th class at Zuda (insanity!). I have learned so many things in the past six months, and in celebration of that, I wanted to write about the best and most meaningful things I’ve learned since I started practicing seriously.
1. My body is unique and awesome. When I started yoga, I hated my body. I was focused on all the things it couldn’t do, and harbored a ton of negative feelings about how I looked and felt. While accepting my body is a daily struggle, yoga has shown me all the things it can do, and has helped me do things I didn’t know I could. My arms can lower me into chatarunga and support me in down dog. My core can hold me in side plank. And the legs I’ve always thought of as stubby and awful feel longer, more muscular and flexible and are capable of moving more gracefully than I ever thought possible. My shape has changed, and I’ve lost weight, but even though my body is not as thin as I want it to be, I appreciate all the things it can do regularly, as opposed to focusing on what it can’t do. I credit being able to see progress in my practice, as well as the acceptance preached in class for this change.
2. Yoga isn’t just poses. When I was in massage school, my teacher often said, “Your issues are in your tissues.” I broke down on the massage table a few times myself, but after being away from that industry for awhile, I thought it was kind of a silly thing. And then I started practicing yoga. I always thought people who did yoga had a touch of the crazy when they’d talk about how much it changed their disposition and feelings, and about yoga cries. I’m blown away by how my emotions are affected by hip openers and backbends, and how the way my body lets go during practice directly correlates with my emotions.
3. You don’t have to be “zen” and talk in a breathy voice to be a yogi. One of the things that put me off of yoga for such a long time were the yogis and the way they seemed to be so at peace all the time. The yoga teachers I study with are real. They swear. They eat food and drink alcohol. They have struggled and they share that. I never feel hopeless or judged because I see that while yoga has helped my teachers grow and change, they are also very real about their lives, and very imperfect. I can relate. It’s refreshing. My yoga teacher always says that being a yogi isn’t about being happy all the time, it’s about facing real life head on, instead of numbing yourself and faking it. I love that.
4. Investing in a community matters. When I started attending classes at my studio, I assumed that the friendliness was false because everyone — from teacher to student to owner — was SO NICE. I’ve practiced at a variety of studios and this is the first one where I’ve felt like I was part of a community. The teachers know my name and make an effort to say hello every single time I’m there. I practice next to people who’ve become friends. I’ve made real friends in workshops and other groups. I recognize that part of this has to do with my committing to a place and going day after day, but I think that my studio does community exceptionally well, and that makes it even more wonderful. I always feel welcomed, loved and supported, and in turn, it makes me want to make others I meet there feel the same. You can have the best teachers and the most classes, but if you don’t have a place where people feel supported, you don’t have anything.
5. Be present. The thing about a practice that focuses on being in the moment, and being where you are in your breath and movement is that you start to apply it in other places. Yoga has made me more aware of how I spend my time, what I put in my body and how I interact with people. All the practice of staying in the moment on my mat makes me more able to stay in the moment in my life instead of numbing or distracting.
6. Yoga changes things. It just does. If you would’ve told me that yoga would change the way I see myself, the way I view relationships, the food I put into my body, the things I spend my time on, and the way I see the world, I would’ve thought you were nuts. But the fact is that yoga changes things, if you let it. An incredibly well-written article for new yoga students puts it this way: Yoga is a catalyst for truth that will tune you into your body’s own innate intelligence. Yoga is a stick of dynamite that will blast away your ideas of who you’ve been, who you are and who you can be and simply leave you gaping in the face of the truth that is your own inner light. It sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but yoga has shown me things about myself I needed to see, and opened me up to possibilities within myself that are simultaneously exciting and terrifying.
I know that I am beyond happy that I let it change me.
So here’s to that first six months, and to many more years!