Yoga was never something I really got. I thought myself neither flexible nor patient enough to do it well, and I had a long-held belief that exercise could only be called so if it left you red in the face and sweaty.
Well, more fool me.
Pregnancy stopped me in my tracks, literally. My usual exercise wasn’t available to me. Climbing was a no-no from a very early stage and jogging felt awkward and uncomfortable. (Plenty of women do strenuous exercise when pregnant – and power to them – it just never felt right in my case.) When my midwife offered me a place on a pregnancy yoga course, my main motivation was that it’d be a good way to learn German. Basically, I did yoga to avoid grammar exercises. I expected nothing more than a safe space to stretch with the security that the “exercises” were designed for my rapidly expanding and shape-shifting body. I expected to get nothing else out of it. I doubted I would even enjoy it. I was not a yogi, after all.
It took exactly one lesson to change my mind. The combination of lying still and quiet for the first time in about twenty years alongside some movement that genuinely got my blood flowing felt, well, great. As the course progressed, I looked forward to Wednesday evening more and more. I signed up for a second course and was still pulling some smooth downward dogs a couple of weeks before my due date. (It was, incidentally, the only position from which I could still see my knees.)
Now, I am a yoga convert. It fits into my life, it fits around my body, and it fits to me as a person. As long as I make the decision to pull out that mat a few times a week, the rest happens naturally. Yoga makes me calmer, stronger, and better able to deal with the world. I use the breathing techniques to calm myself when I get anxious. I use the mindfulness aspect to slow the hell down when I am rushing around for absolutely no reason. I notice when my shoulders are tight and up around my ears. Damn it, I sit and actively relax the skin on my forehead and jaw before reacting to something that’s irked me. I am in better physical shape than I have been for almost two years.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not good at yoga in the conventional sense. My head and knees are not destined to meet without some generous bend in my legs, and I just had to Google the spelling of namaste. I have no desire to find a teacher or go on retreats. For me, yoga is a thing I do consciously in my pyjamas in front of a screen and subtly throughout my day as I take the insight I’ve gained and use it to spruce me up as a person. I haven’t suddenly become deeply spiritual nor do I believe that a new hobby is the answer to all life’s problems. I’ve just learned that giving active attention to my body and feelings as well as slowing down a few times a week can make a lot of difference. It’s no great epiphany, but it has been a game changer. For me, at least.
The point, and, bare with me, there is one, is that this simple activity that I used to be so skeptical about has been the first thing that’s really and truly helped me deal with anxiety and depression as well as feel well in my body, both physically and mentally. Rather than this being a love letter to yoga, it is a confession. I admit it: I was close-minded and dismissive of something without trying it. I thought I couldn’t do it, so I didn’t. I didn’t understand it, so I dismissed it.
I tried yoga for obnoxious reasons and got lucky. And, it’s not for everyone, sure, but giving that thing you think you can’t do a go, or trying thing you don’t really get might not be such a bad idea. In my humble opinion, anyway.