When I first stepped into a yoga studio I had little to no interested in actually stepping onto a yoga mat. I was working for the studio to run their social media, publish online newsletters and organize a blog… funny thing about that task turned out to be it was a challenging when I didn’t know much about yoga, which is why I finally broke down and started to practice. It was job security more than anything else.
And now after three years of practice I have learned more than just how to put my leg behind my head – and I think they’re a couple things worth sharing.
1) I am an athlete. Yes, yogis are athletes, why else would they be considering making yoga an olympic sport? As a former mediocre soccer and basketball player I didn’t consider yoga a sport until after my first power yoga class – then I ate my words for a week when I could barely walk. But after practicing regularly for six months (regularly being 2-3 times a week) I finally felt myself nailing poses I thought were impossible when I started. Headstand, back bends, a whole new world had opened up. And now as I find myself tackling even more challenging poses like handstand, bird of paradise and hanumanasana, I can firmly state that I, Heather Colvin, am an athlete after all. Dad must be so proud after having to sit through a lot of lost basketball games.
2) I have a strong understanding of the human body. I never would have considered myself well versed in anatomy before I started practicing yoga; but since completing my teacher training and working as a teacher and even as a student I have learned more than I ever thought I would know (or need to know) about how the body works. Sure I’m no physical therapist when it comes to naming muscles or identifying torn ligaments, but I know so much more about proper posture, healthy aligment and how the body generally functions. Through my study of yoga I have been only been able to stand a little bit taller but I also understand why!
3) I have become better at handling difficult situations. I’m not saying that I don’t lose my mind about shit sometimes, but overall I find that I have healthier, more grounded reactions to negative things that I encounter in my life. It has taken time, but as I have listened to multiple teachers over multiple years recite the beautiful philosophy of yoga to me I have learned how to be a better person. The thing I’ve taken away from yoga more than anything else is this: You may not be able to control the things that happen in your life, but you always have control over your reaction. It sounds simple, but in practice is something I will always have to remind myself of.
4) I have learned better body control. First time yogis often have seen other people practice challenging poses, or even more basic poses like warrior 1, 2 or 3 and assume that it’s not that challenging. I know I thought that at a time. It’s basically the ballerina phenomenon. Have you ever seen a ballet and thought to yourself, “Well, that looks easy enough”? Well, yoga is the same exact way. I never realized how challenging it was to stand on one foot until I was asked to stick the other leg out behind me. I never realized that things I had done as a kid like handstands and crow and tripod headstands were all that difficult, until I found yoga. Now after honing my yogi skills over the years I have finally realized the amount of intense control and muscle strength yoga takes. Through yoga I have learned how to use my body more efficiently & thank goodness, because it’s also knocked off a pant size or two.
5) Not all yogis wear Birkenstocks & drink green juice. Yes, many of them do, but not all. I am a great example of that. While I enjoy a good pair of sandals, I stick to something a little less earthy and while I like the Green Machine variety of Naked Juice, I don’t drink Kombucha or consume a copious amount of chia seeds on a daily basis. Guess what: yogis are people, too. Some of us even eat meat (shhhh, don’t tell the New York Times or they’ll get on our case again). Listen, yoga is far more mainstream than it was once was – regular people do it, too. And while you do get your garden variety of hippy thrown in the mix, 1) they typically are very nice people and 2) they’re not stealing your Venus Razor and demanding you let your armpit hair grow au naturel. They just want the same things you want from the class, or maybe, better yet, they don’t; but you’re all still there to practice yoga, whatever that means to you. So sit back, relax and maybe try a green juice or a coconut water sometime, worst case scenario you don’t care for it and move on.
Yes, there’s more that I’ve learned from yoga than these 5 things, but I think these gems are a good start. Had you asked me when I graduated from college in 2009 what I thought I would be doing in March of 2012 I can promise you I would under no circumstances have said “blogging about yoga, duh”. I would have said working for a magazine or publishing my 5th book; but, here I am. There’s no one thing that has changed my life (or my body) as much as yoga has – and that’s the truth.
So, all I have left is a question for you: How has yoga changed your life? I’d love to hear from you!