Is Yoga Right for You?

I was first introduced to Yoga when I was 16 years old and my sister was performing a series of warrior poses in the middle of the living room. Back then I was highly active as a football (soccer) player, long distance runner, and ballet dancer. I laughed to myself when my sister invited me to try the postures as I highly doubted that anything so snail-paced could possibly present a challenge to an endurance athlete like myself.


My legs burned and buckled. My arms were on fire and my elbows and wrists screamed in downward facing dog. I actually flopped into a confused heap on the mat…my ego was bruised but my competitive nature wasn’t done with this Yoga thing just yet.

What started off as a journey in having the last laugh lead me down a much more humbling path. I started Yoga because I wanted to be strong, but I continued with Yoga because it made me okay with my weaknesses.

Everyone’s path to Yoga is different. Some people move to the practice to rehabilitate from injuries, some move to it for rehabilitation of the heart, some to improve athletic performance and flexibility, and some for the relaxation…there are so many reasons to venture towards the mat and even more reasons to keep coming back. The wonderful thing about the practice is that it evolves with you and can be tailored to whatever you need it to be at any point in your life. I don’t believe that there is a ‘wrong’ reason to get on the mat just so long as you commit to being open once you are there.

Yoga is physically challenging and that can be one of the more alluring aspects of the practice initially. Many people are less open to the meditation and even less to the idea of chanting. This is why it is important to know that there are many types of Yoga and not all are heavily focused on the spiritual side of the practice and not all require you to contort into the more advanced postures. It is good to challenge yourself to take part in activities that push you out of your comfort zone but at the same time it’s also important to move at your own pace and pick a form of Yoga that resonates with you, your current abilities and what point you are at in your life. If you are not enjoying the practice on some level then it is going to make it very difficult to commit yourself to going regularly. Not all Yoga is chanting and hour long meditation…but all Yoga encourages one common goal: awareness.

Yes, that may actually shock a few readers. Many think that the goal of Yoga is to be more flexible. In fact, many people shy away from the practice because they feel they are not flexible enough to perform even in the most basic poses. Those are the individuals who I feel may benefit the most from the practice. Not because it will make them more flexible (because it can along with providing improvements in joint conditioning, lung capacity and strengthening connective tissues) but the postures put you face to face with your physical strengths and weaknesses from the get go. This is where the real meaning of the practice begins to surface.

I battled with my ego when I first began practicing. Poses like downward facing dog were devastatingly difficult for me. My lower back was sickeningly tight and my arms were very weak. That pose drove me to frustrated tears on many occasions. The anger that would surge within me alongside feelings of complete despair would catch me off guard and leave me feeling utterly spent. I struggled to keep my breathing steady in the face of these things. But each time I came back to the mat I became less and less horrified with my weaknesses and more and more willing to work with what I had and who I was. It was a slow surrender but in time the practice taught me to stop looking at where I wanted to be and learn to just be where I was and breathe. In time this willingness to be in the moment slowly moved off of the mat and into my daily life helping me to deal with my severe anxiety and even overcome the challenges of fighting an eating disorder.

Downward facing dog, once the bane of my life, is now my favorite posture and a place of peace for me. Even though it is still physically challenging on my lower back it takes me straight to a place of understanding and partnership with my body instead of a constant battle.

This was just my path, but it is a lesson in self-love that I wish to share and why I would encourage everyone to venture into a Yoga class or two. Whether you use Yoga for improvements in flexibility and breathing, for decompression from a high-stress work environment, for soul searching or just as a change in scenery in your fitness regime I challenge you to commit to your practice fully. What I mean by that is to not simply step on the mat but to be on the mat. When you perform the postures, whether it is the gravity defying handstand or the grounding forward folds, be in your pose. Look at how your body is responding. Just look. See where your body blossoms in the postures and where it struggles to perform. Look at all of these things as one and the same; your practice. Let your practice lead you to a better understanding of the way your body works, how it moves and what it needs. The building of this awareness can move deeper…to a better understanding of your inner workings and underlying motives. One doesn’t dive head first into a reservoir of consciousness the moment they attempt these things…but with regular knocks on the door it will eventually open and you may find…yourself.


Comments are closed.