A newbie’s guide to yoga

Sports never interested me as a child, only physically active when my mother coerced me into intramural sports, or my 45-year-old teachers pushed me along the track for “just one more lap”. I have always leaned toward reading or watching movies, because getting sweaty and having sore muscles is really not my style.  Honestly, who wants to have the paranoia that everyone can smell you following you around all day after sweating buckets? I was never quite chubby, but that freshman 15 really caught up on me in my first year of university. Okay, make that a freshman 30. I was feeling uncomfortable and awkward with my body, and my mental health was starting to decline. One morning, it hit me, in a cliché-style epiphany: Unless I do something, things won’t get any better. Duh.

I started with the basics, eating smaller portions, putting more fruits and veggies into my diet, not snacking at all hours of the day, and just generally watching what I was putting into my body. Just that little monitoring had me losing pounds, and breaking up with my boyfriend at the time soon after gave me all the more reason to focus and step my game up.

I was doing the nutrition part right, but I still couldn’t seem to get my butt off the couch. I hadn’t done yoga since the required segment in grade 10 gym class, so when my coworker introduced me to VIU’s twice-a-week Flow Yoga, I was hesitant, to say the least. Here was that paranoia again. And I couldn’t imagine the mirrors, oh god, the mirrors. All my imperfections staring at me, my face red, and ponytail askew, I couldn’t possibly do it.

So there I found myself, on my turquoise mat in my stretchy yoga pants and loose t-shirt, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. Laying down in the Shavasana pose, I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at the thumps and bangs I kept hearing from the gym next door. So much for relaxation.

The teacher was a fit lady who embodied what I had imagined a true yogi to be, with long hair, relaxed demeanor and a kind smile.

As we began doing the poses I finally had to open my eyes, figuratively and literally, to myself. What I found as I was stretching and struggling to hold a pose was that yoga is wholly introspective. Aside from watching the teacher to make sure I got the poses right, I noticed that I wasn’t even thinking of glancing at my fellow classmates, yet alone judge their alignment for the downward facing dog. If I didn’t have time to do it, they certainly didn’t have time to judge me either. There was absolutely no pressure to hold a pose if you couldn’t do it, and a general acceptance that some of us, if not all weren’t going to be able to perform 100 per cent.

As I was busy avoiding my gaze in the mirror, I noticed a metamorphosis every time I chanced a look. Though all the struggle and weird angles, I seemed way more relaxed than I had coming in. Fancy that.

Schoolwork, my job, and life in general had left me unfocused, stressed and unmotivated, but allowing myself that one hour of solace made me emerge feeling like a new person, like I could handle life again. It might have been exercise, but somehow, it made me recharge.

You’ll never guess where I found myself on the following Tuesday.

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