One of my favorite things about living in DC is the abundance of exercise options here, from Yoga and Barre studios to running clubs and more. For the past few years I dabbled in yoga, starting and stopping for different reasons. This year I was lucky enough to get passes as a gift to a local studio called STROGA, which I happily took advantage of. My first thought was “this will be fun!”, but the benefits I received were even better than expected. Not only did I have fun, but I learned some valuable and unexpected lessons along the way.
1. Practice, practice
If you were involved in something in high school or college, you were most likely practicing 5 days a week with performances and games on the weekends. These days while working full time and balancing all of life’s events, it is harder to hone in on something and make time for it. Lately I have felt like a jack of all trades dabbling here and there in things that I like, without reaching my full potential. While I am nowhere near close to perfecting yoga I have been amazed at what more consistency has allowed me to do. If you are dabbling in something but not noticing many benefits, try creating a schedule and doing it on a regular basis to maximize results.
2. You can still teach your body new things
Going to these classes taught me to face my fears and push myself to try new things. I surprised myself when I realized I was actually capable of doing it! You might see people doing crazy yoga poses or doing a spin class and think “no way”! But if you start small and work at it, you may surprise yourself as well.
3. Turning off brain chatter is hard work
Yoga is centered around mindfulness and meditation, focusing on your breath and being in the moment. While it may seem easy to do, it is extremely hard! Moments where I was able to clear my head were rare and required a lot of concentration, but I could notice the benefits immediately. Although it is challenging, like anything else the more you work at it the easier it will be. Try meditating for 5 minutes a day to start and work your way up as you get better. It may take time, but it is worth it!
4. You don’t have to be perfect
It can be hard not to compare yourself to others or try to be perfect, but it is best to turn that off when you get on the yoga mat. Yoga is about you and only you and where you are in your practice. Some people are pros and others are beginners but all are welcome at any level. Getting rid of comparisons or judgement is essential to maximizing your experience.
5. Actually, it is recommended that you make mistakes
One of the best things you can do in yoga is make a mistake and learn the difference in how it feels when you do it correctly. The main way I learned certain poses and postures was to do it completely wrong the first time or to fall over, and feel how it easy it was once I was doing it right. These were the times that helped me get to the next level.
6. Smile on a regular basis
People hold their stress in different areas and my spot is definitely my face and jaw. During class the yoga instructor would often recommend smiling and that instantly helped release tension and ease my mind. Even in normal life it can be helpful to take time to smile and notice how that releases some of the stress that you are feeling.
7. Don’t go at it alone
For a long time I thought that I knew enough about exercise to do it myself, but these last few months have shown me how wrong I am! There is no better way to improve than to learn from the experts. Following videos can be helpful but learning the correct way to do something is essential in the beginning. This helps you build strength and prevent injury.
8. Regular exercise can change your life
Of course we all know the benefits of exercise–weight loss, increased strength, improved mood, etc. But sometimes these changes are subtle or you quit before you notice them. Taking classes for 6 months on a regular basis really allowed me to see the benefits. With exercise it is easy to start up and stop and continue that kind of cycle. A set schedule is best to get to your full potential and feel your best. You won’t regret it.
9. Patience is Key
This lesson came in two forms. The first was through learning new postures and getting better at the practice. It took me many months before I could get into a headstand, but with each class it got easier and easier. Learn to listen to your body and go at the pace that is right for you–results will come soon enough.
The instructors often mentioned patience in daily life as well as while in class. Yoga brings peace and calmness, which, in time, can be maintained in your personal life. While I am still working on this, it is an important lesson and goal to work towards. We live in a busy and hectic world and patience with yourself and others is essential.
There were many other things these past 6 months taught me but I could go on and on. Each person benefits differently from their exercise routines, but making one for yourself that you can stick to is key. Now that my passes are up, I plan to continue regular yoga by doing my 30-Day Yoga Challenge and staying consistent to continue learning and improving. Updates to come!