I remember when I discovered yoga.
I was 16 when I got my hands on that first book – one of those thick-paged, hand-sized volumes that breaks down the poses with pictures of people in pastel unitards, awkwardly cut out of their original environment, floating on stark white backgrounds.
The internet not being quite the instantly gratifying go-to resource it is today, I think this initial taste of yogic goodness came from the discount bin at Winners.
I used that book. Considerably more than I used the Yoga Journal I got later, since anything requiring me to keep daily entries tends to go the way of figurines from great aunts and bathroom wall-hangings – that is: dusty and forgotten.
But that book, I used. Along with videos I found on sale at a department store (yeah, I’m thrifty), led by a lovely fitness coach whose name I no longer remember, but who was the perfect combination of cheery without being perky, and experienced without being obtuse.
I remember when downward dog made my arms ache after five seconds, and chaturanga consisted of a direct flop onto my chest. But I laid my mat out in the backyard, and I sun saluted til my heart was full and the grass was flattened for the rest of the afternoon (much to my dad’s chagrin).
I haven’t become a yoga master in these last 12 years. I haven’t even become a yoga instructor. Sometimes my only practice is the 5 minute wake up series I do each morning, the bones of which I put together during those first years, some more advanced poses gradually worked in.
But it doesn’t matter if I can’t do a handstand without the wall, or I’m only just working toward bringing my foot to my head in King Pigeon. One day I’ll get there, and if the goal is one thing that keeps me coming back to rest in child’s pose, that’s all I can ask for.
When I don’t do yoga, I feel pained – both physically and mentally. My brain is jumbled and my body is compressed. But when I stretch out on that mat and sneak a glance to notice how my form has improved – my leg nearly straight in One-Legged Downward Dog, my hand finally flat on the ground in Extended Triangle – or when I remind myself to take a great, healing breath in Warrior II … that’s when I remember why I do yoga.
I do yoga for me.
And you should do yoga, for you.
Five Practical Reasons You Should Yoga
- It makes you bendy. When I pretzel into some weird pose while I’m on the couch watching TV, I remember yoga gave me the tools to become a noodle.
- Pull up your sock without dropping your take out. Focus on a spot up ahead, bend that knee into a kind of Tree Pose, and say goodbye to uncomfortably balled up stockings at the toe of your shoe!
- Insta-relax at work. A quick forward fold, or a seated twist not only releases tension in the back, neck, and shoulders, but also forces you to tear your eyes away from the computer screen for a few seconds.
- Yoga is besties with Sleep. The internet simply abounds with relaxation sequences. Akin to meditating, those calm, cool poses will clear your mind and chill out your body so you’re snoozing as soon as the light’s out.
- Happiness, yo. I don’t need to quote studies for you. Deep breathing, exalting the beauties of nature, selflessness – all these things tend to make people quite happy. And yoga tends to contribute to all these things.