Growing up I always saw yoga as only being for stuck up snobs who thought they were better than everyone else or just for skinny people. But once I graduated college, I decided to give it a try because after all the Zumba I was doing, I desperately needed some stretching to even out. And to my surprise, I found that I quite enjoyed yoga.
It all started with this YouTube playlist called the 30 Day Yoga Challenge (which you can find here) and I was looking for anything to get me into a habit so I clicked on day one. Turns out the instructor, Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi, was the total opposite of what I expected from a yoga teacher! She was funny, she was down to earth, and she made yoga accessible to someone like me, who is quite full figured and not stick thin.
After I finished day one, I felt fantastic and looked forward to coming back for day two. As each day passed and I completed each class, I found that I enjoyed Erin’s teaching style. She made me want to come back for more. And on top of that, all the stretching I was doing made me feel better.
Yoga taught me how to have better posture. Instead of just saying to stand up straighter, it taught me how to straighten and stretch out my spine so that I actually felt what good posture should feel like. Yoga taught me how to be mindful of my body and Erin very kindly told us in her videos not to push past our limits because some of the harder poses could seriously hurt us. Now I know which pain to push through and how to relax my muscles in a stretch when I’m a bit stiffer. And the flexibility that has come with doing yoga for 5 years was definitely worth it! When I first started my Pigeon pose, I couldn’t come down into my elbows and my hips were fairly high off the floor. Now, not only can I come down onto my elbows and my hips are nearly touching the floor, but on a good day when I’m really warm and stretched out, I can rest my forehead on my mat and stretch my arms out around my head. And on top of that, when I am sitting up, I can reach back and actually grab my foot to pull for a quad stretch, whereas I couldn’t even reach my foot before.
In addition to Pigeon, I can now manage to get into a headstand, as long as I’m next to a wall, when before I couldn’t even manage to get up into a headstand. I used to not be able to hold plank pose for more than a couple seconds and now I can hold it for 30 or more seconds on my hands, and 60+ seconds on my forearms. And one of Erin’s more unique videos, I think, would be the one focused on hands and wrists. I had to agree with her statement that not everyone would even think they had tight hands, though as a writer it was not that big a shock to me. But I’ve watched her hands and wrists video so much that I have it memorized and I incorporate it into my daily routine because it’s so much more than just a yoga video for me. It’s a necessity because I am constantly doing stuff with my hands, whether that’s excessive typing or crocheting or writing or whatever. And her stretches make it easier for me to relieve some of the tension in my hands and wrists and it’s made all the difference.
Lastly, and most importantly, yoga taught me the joy of just sitting still and being quiet with myself. In its own way, it’s not only become my regular stretching practice but it’s also become a form of meditation for me. I can focus on the moves and my breathing, quietly keep time in my head for each move when I’m doing my own flow, and just drown everything else out. Which, for someone with anxiety that’s worsened in the past few years, some mental peace and quiet is much needed. And I don’t have to be moving through a flow to meditate. I can sit quietly on my mat and close my eyes, because once I hit that mat, no matter what time of day or whatever’s going on in my life, everything pauses around me. Being on my mat clears my head, gives me focus, and most importantly, calms my body down, all of which are important for slowing or stopping an anxiety attack from happening.
If you’re interested in learning more about Erin’s practices, you can find her YouTube channel here and her blog here. She’s a fantastic teacher and she has her own program now called the Perfect Body Yoga Program, which I hear is amazing (but sadly cannot afford myself). Go check her out and see for yourself. 🙂