“That didn’t even do anything…” I scoffed as I strolled out of my first yoga class at my community recreation center. I shoved the communal yoga mat back in its bin and hit the treadmill – if I wasn’t drenched in sweat, it wasn’t working.
For those of you who think yoga just describes a pair of tight-fitting pants, let me fill you in. “Yoga is one of the oldest systems of personal development in the world,” explains the Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada. “Yoga means union. The union of body, mind and spirit.” Basically, yoga is a series of postures and breathing techniques that promote overall wellness.
But for me, my attitude towards yoga remained stagnant over the next two years. I would attend the occasional yoga class and walk out with the same feeling of having wasted time. ‘Seriously,’ I thought. ‘ I’m paying $18 a class to spend a quarter of it lying still on my mat in ‘savasana’? Get real.’
Then came my struggle with Bikram yoga. Imagine that you are standing in the middle of a carpeted room with 15 other strangers, in sauna like conditions, attempting to hold tree pose while the sweat is causing your leg to slide off your thigh. The room stinks. But, sweating means it’s working, right?
Practicing yoga is seen as epitome of health and wellness, but I had never understood the hype. When I thought of the word ‘yogi’ I would picture a wealthy, white woman driving to yoga practice while sipping on a kale smoothie in her white Land Rover, or a dreadlocked, bracelet-wearing hippy posing on a picturesque mountainside. For years I let these stereotypes steer me away from anything yogic related, and I’m sure some of you have had similar sentiments.
Fast forward to today. I practice yoga daily, sometimes twice a day. I just did yoga in the middle of writing this article to give my mind a break.
My journey from non-believer to full-on-yogi began when I realized how out of shape I was. I had been working a serving job all summer and I went to my fair share of parties. It took me days to recover from my hangovers, and by the time I did, I was on to the next party. I was wasting $50 a month on my gym membership that wasn’t being put to use, and I needed something just to get me off the couch.
Then, I remembered how effortless yoga seemed each time I attempted it. Maybe if I did yoga I could say I worked out, without breaking a sweat at the gym like I used to. I was too broke to join a studio, and had never had a positive experience there anyway, so I went to YouTube and began looking up yoga sequences I could mimic in the comfort of my own home.
I started with Do You Yoga’s 30-day Yoga Challenge. Each sequence is about fifteen minutes long – very doable. I started off slowly, doing yoga every second or third day, until I began to miss the days when I would get on my borrowed, worn out yoga mat.
I saw progress. I could put my heels down during downward dog. I could transition from warrior two to warrior three without falling out of the pose. I bought my own quality yoga mat. I completed the 30-Day Yoga Challenge and wanted more. I began searching out more YouTubers that I could learn from. Soon, I was dedicating about 45 minutes to yoga everyday and loving it.
“When you’re practicing yoga your mind is clear of any thoughts and chattering, which allows you to be 100 percent in the moment,” says Tannissa Lane, a Vancouver based yoga instructor. “With routine and daily practice, yoga helps train the mind to stay calm and relaxed.”
To me, it’s like hitting the refresh button. I put my phone away, roll out my mat and press play. For the next half-hour to an hour, the only thing I’m thinking about is my breath and holding my pose. Bonus: You don’t have to head to a studio or pay $50 a month for a gym membership to practice yoga. I’ve rolled my mat out on my deck, in the park and on a beach in Vancouver.
Still not convinced? Here are some ways yoga benefits both your body and mind, courtesy of certified yoga instructors Tannissa Lane and Kate Boak.