Being Mindful – Yoga and Meditation

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I began running and being more actively involved in my health and fitness a few years ago. Yoga was recommended to me several times – by multiple different people. I had always resisted because I didn’t know where or how to look for classes. I didn’t want to have to pay for classes either. And most importantly, I don’t bend.

It’s true. And it’s definitely genetic. My mom always used to talk about how she got a ‘C’ in gym class because she couldn’t touch her toes. I always wanted to try doing gymnastics, but my body just doesn’t have the flexibility. And when I thought of yoga, it’s the concept of contorting your body into strange shapes that always came to mind.

After my hip injury last fall, I realized that I needed to make some changes. Although I had been cross training with swimming, elliptical and some weights, obviously it wasn’t enough. All of the injuries I’ve struggled with have come down to one very basic fact. My muscles are tight. And while warmups and stretches are important, they just aren’t always enough. I need to work on balance and flexibility as well as strength.

Enter yoga…

Finding a class was easier than I’d thought. We had joined our local YMCA back in late 2017. I go there multiple times weekly to swim and use the fitness machines. And, they offer classes as well. I found an evening yoga class that fit into my schedule. Classes are free for members. It’s a good way to get an additional benefit from a membership we’re already paying for.

I was nervous going into the first class. I didn’t know how my hip would hold up. Would everyone in the class be trim and fit and flexible? Would I look like an overweight idiot?

I talked Hannah into going with me that first night. We arrived just on time, but the studio door was closed and the lights were off. We weren’t sure if we were in the right place so just stood around for a few minutes feeling awkward. Someone passing by asked if we were there for a class and told us to go right in. The yoga classes keep the lights off so class was already in session. We didn’t have mats or know where they were kept. Thankfully, a kind gentleman took a moment to get us set up and settled.

Yes, that first class was scary and strange. But, when I went back, I knew where to go and what to expect. It was so much easier. And new people come every week, so I don’t feel alone or awkward anymore.

Here are some tips I’ve learned since that first yoga class:

  • It doesn’t matter how fit or not you are. Everyone is at their own level. Yoga is about making your practice work for you.
  • It can be scary to walk into a new class for the first time. You don’t know the teacher, the routine or the rules. But everyone there was new once too. Just walk in and do it.
  • Don’t go out and buy expensive equipment before trying yoga to see if you like it. Ask if there are mats and yoga blocks that you can borrow to use.
  • At first the poses will be strange and new. I didn’t know any of the names other than ‘downward facing dog’. But I watched the instructor, as well as the other people around me and got the idea pretty quickly. I also looked up some of the poses online after I got home to see if I’d been doing them correctly.
  • Yoga is as much about mindfulness and meditation as it is moving your body. I can feel the benefit in both my body and mind every week.
  • From days and weeks that can be full of activity and stress, I love having just even one hour of not having to think. About anything.

My biggest take-away? Yes, it’s true. I don’t bend. I have to adjust some of the poses to make them work. And I simply can’t even do others. But I make the best effort I can. The instructor is wonderful in giving adjustments to make and not putting pressure on to do everything perfectly.

There are all kinds of people in my yoga class. From the kid who attended my first class with his mom, to the elderly gentleman who sits front and center each and every week. We’re all different shapes and sizes. But we all come together for this one hour to be mindful of our bodies and our spirits.