I was thinking a little bit after last nights practice how far I’ve come in my yoga practice in a little over 4 months. When I went to my first class (Dec 1,2011), I felt kinda silly, didn’t know what I was doing and was the only guy in the class. But I stuck with it, went back a second week and then when we did the hamstring stretches it dawned on me, this is why my running friends swear by it. I’ve been going back ever since, and recently started going two nights a week for extra stretching. Here’s what I’ve noticed that has changed, some physical, some mental.
Increased Confidence: I don’t feel goofy in yoga any more. I am happy to go, and I look forward to it, and I know even if I mess up a pose and look silly, someone else in the class is doing the same thing and the point is we are TRYING. I lift my arms and my shirt rides up and my belly hangs out, but that doesn’t embarrass me (although it does annoy me, and the shirt problem has yet to be figured out).
Increased Flexibility: At the beginning of the class in forward fold, I can almost touch the floor with a slight bend in my knees. Towards the end of class when we are warmed up I can touch the floor with my finger tips, with a slight bend in my knee. When I was stretching before a run last week I could reach out and grab the toe of my shoe. This has not happened before. (In a quirk of standing vs sitting, I can’t even get remotely close to my toe while sitting).
Challenging Myself: About halfway through my half marathon training (I believe in January). The Wednesday night yoga class at the Y switched from being Yoga 1 to Yoga 2. With my training schedule fixed, Wednesday nights were the only nights I could do yoga. I debated between dropping it or continuing on, but I stuck with it. Now I continue in Yoga 2 and don’t have any problems with it. It was a rough transition, but that’s ok.
My Breathing is Better: Yes, the cardio has a lot to do with it. You get used to it after a while. But I don’t huff and puff like a dying whale when I run anymore. And maybe yoga doesn’t have anything to do with my lung’s endurance (10 mile runs usually help with that) but yoga has taught me to THINK about my breathing. And use breath to push through hard parts and so when I get to a tough part of a run and start huffing real bad I will slow down (my breathing, not my running) and take a couple big deep breathes and refocus and keep going.
My Balance is Better: This is one of those things I don’t notice so much in real life, but notice it a lot in yoga practice. It’s a lot easier to get into the balance poses and a lot easier to hold them. On our hiking trip, I held Tree Pose for a very long time while Gray took multiple pictures with both his iPhone and my camera. Granted, I was wearing boots on very soft ground, which gave me a very nice base to sink into, rather than barefoot on a hardwood floor with just a quarter inch thick mat, but I held it for a fairly long time in the last class as well.
I can do things now I couldn’t when I started: This is just basic overall progress. When I first started I had to drop my knees to Kneeling Plank during the sun salutations, now I can hold myself in Plank, and I can slowly lower myself to Chattaranga, rather than just plopping down. It seems like every class I go to we try something new, so I’m constantly learning new poses, but also re-learning old ones, learning to do them the right way without the variations. There’s nothing wrong with using a variant, but it’s nice to do a pose the way it’s intended.
And with that, I wish you Peace and Blessings, Namaste.