I began my Yoga practice a few years ago, to avoid undergoing a 2nd back operation before the age of 30. What started as minor rehab exercises, has now turned into a regular practice. This love lead me to complete a 200hr teacher training and a Yoga for Mental Health course.
To try to put it in simple terms, I love the feeling of space Yoga gives me.
First, I notice the space between my breath.
Then, space in my muscles as they lengthen.
Followed sometimes by a nice pop as the space within my joints is noticed.
This space proceeds to work its way upwards until it sits between my ears, sometimes for a moment, sometimes for a minute. The concentration of that meditative focus can also be described as ‘Samadhi’.
The cultivation of this space, for me, is Yoga.
When I first started going to classes, I couldn't touch my toes - or bend far forward, due to the intense sciatic pain (forget about sitting cross-legged!). As a young guy who’s supposed to be capable of doing these movements, it was very humbling to see women and men twice my age with three times the strength and ability I had.
I was so worried about being judged as “bad at yoga” but the reality I’ve found is: No One Cares! Everyone is fighting their own battle on their mat, too busy to worry about what anyone else is doing.
Instead of freaking out about what other people may think, we can turn that focus inwards. It’s hard to be bad at something you're only comparing yourself to, but a much more accurate scale of progression: Can I bend a little more today? Is sitting easier? Can I take a deeper breath? Noticing these little improvements can be a much better feeling than worrying about what that person on Instagram can do.
Once you've become familiar with finding paths to that feeling of space, you can start to notice yourself using them outside of the classroom.
You could be sitting in your office, your car in traffic or simply going for a walk and notice those moments of peace. Watching how you take a few breaths, noticing how you're sitting in your chair or feeling the ground beneath your feet. The next thing you know - you have a daily meditation practice! It’s a great way to supplement any existing training or sports you compete in, aiding in skill development as well as recovery, due to Yoga benefiting both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
There’s a wide range of different types of Yoga asanas to try such as Vinyasa, Yin, and Ashtanga. With classical paths such as Jnana (path of knowledge), Bhakti (path of loving devotion) and Karma (path of action) available to pursue as well, there’s a method of Yoga to suit anyone’s disposition.
So if you've been entertaining the idea of trying a class, sick of having a sore back, stiff legs or had enough of doing your own head in, please go find a place that interests you - they usually have some sort of trial!
Try something that scares you a little- you won't regret it.