Before I ever tried yoga, I was convinced it was something I wouldn't like. »It's all about stretching,« I'd say like I actually knew what it was and like stretching was something bad. And even before I went to my first class, I heard a ton about the benefits of practicing yoga—improving health, healing aches and pains, keep sickness at bay and around a bazillion others—but, for some reason unknown to me, that apparently just wasn't convincing enough even though the surf camp where I was working at that time offered free classes for staff and one of the main reasons people visited our little village was yoga. It took about a year of working at that same camp and watching people leaving classes all blissed out, still not understanding what it was all about, for me to actually try it out for myself.
And so I went. And you could easily say the rest is history as here I am now, around 7 years, a few yoga teacher training and quite a few classes taken and taught later, still practicing and nurturing this yoga relationship. Although my practice has changed a ton since that first class, yoga practice and philosophy remain my biggest loves. Or, better said, the love keeps growing into something new with every year, with every class I teach, with every training I take.
And since there are around a million and seven articles on the health benefits of yoga, here are 4 reasons why after all this time I'm still sticking with it and intend to continue to do so:
1. It makes me feel what I feel and be okay with it.
The second I sit on my mat, even before I start moving, I usually get a pretty good sense in which direction my day is going to go. Those few minutes in the beginning, when I just sit with my eyes closed, are a great indicator of how I'm going to react off the mat. Some days I can't sit still for 20 seconds, everything seems to be as annoying as it can be, and other days minutes pass by so quickly I barely realize it. That first morning (or noon or afternoon) reaction to the practice of just sitting for a few moments is a pretty accurate indicator of the underlying feelings that refuse to be repressed. And so I sit with them and allow them to bubble to the surface. Sometimes it results in a bit more peace, other times it results in me swearing over myself and the bookshelf I managed to smash myself into after not being able to balance in Tree Pose. And you know what? That's okay.
2. It helps me connect with my body.
During that first session of the day, when I just sit with myself for a moment, I do a mental check in with my body to see how certain parts are feeling and which ones might need a little extra love and attention that day. It helps me work with how I feel, no matter how crappy that might be on some days, but also be grateful for the days when I wake up and my body feels strong as well as healthy and ready for the day (and potential challenges) ahead. It also makes me realize and make peace with the changes my body goes through during different cycles—may they be menstrual, seasonal or yearly. I learn to honor it, respect it and give thanks. That's not to say I don't get frustrated. It just means that I know that frustration is just temporary and quite possibly a reflection of something else.
3. It helps me stay in the present.
Have you ever tried not falling over in Dancer's Pose, Warrior 3 or any other one-legged balance when your thoughts were somewhere else? Remember those last few sentences of point number one about smashing my bookcase while falling out of balance? Well, that's what happens when my mind tries to think about that dinner I'm going to make after my yoga session or about that thing I said 3 days ago with the wrong tone that the person I was speaking to most likely forgot about in the next hour but my mind still clings too. There's no escaping the present moment. And in the end, that's kind of the point, isn't it? To be present right here, right now, not obsessing over the past and overthinking about the future. Right now is all that exists.
4. It makes me less of an ass.
While yoga is not just about postures (there are 7 other parts to it, to be exact), the main thing about yoga is »yoking«, connecting, realising that we're all in this together, which is something that extends far beyond the four corners of the yoga mat—caring for the Earth, the oceans, equal rights, our neighbours and every. damn. thing.
So beware as you, if you don't already, might start caring about all the plastic that we produce (and use!), polar bears losing their habitat due to ice melting and different minorities being repressed amongst a bazillion other social, economic and environmental issues that we face.
It's not about putting that leg behind your head but about seeing that we're all one and, well, giving a damn. Now, that is when real yoga starts.
Dreamer, creator, lover, yogi.