Today I did my 7th yoga class in 8 days and it feels great. I posted about my first few classes on instagram and I had a few people ask what I liked about it and whether it helped with my depression. These conversations made me stop and reflect on what I was getting out of it and I wanted to share with more of you.
I’ll start with the physical benefits because they’re the easiest to explain. If you watch my stories you know I stretch daily, but I pretty much always do the same basic routine. It’s been fun and challenging to keep up with a new set of poses and a flow that I’m not used to. It forces me to be present in my body and in the moment. Even though most of the classes I have taken have been quite gentle, I’ve been using core & leg muscles I haven’t used in ages and I’ve been sore! ...in a good way! Today for the first time I took a more intense class and was able to do something that I have struggled with in every other class so far, so yay! Even though it was a small improvement, I feel proud! It’s interesting to think of the ease at which it happened today - a move that almost made me fall over like 5 times in the last week somehow just clicked. Good reminder to keep at it even when it feels like you aren’t making progress!
The mental benefits are more subtle and harder for me to articulate but there has definitely been a noticeable shift in my state of mind. The first and most general mental benefits happen before I even get on the mat. It feels good to wake up and think “I’m going to yoga today.” It feels good to book the class, to bundle up, and to arrive at the studio. I think each of the steps leading up to the class feels good because they signify a positive and healthy choice that I’m making for myself. I have enough unhealthy coping mechanisms that I beat myself up about that it’s a welcome change to do something that is wholly good for me. Simply, it feels good to feel good about myself.
The class itself also encourages a healthy headspace. It’s an hour of uninterrupted focus on my breath, body, and the current moment. I leave feeling relaxed yet energized and somehow refreshed, like I just hit a reset button on my brain. I am still not feeling super upbeat and energetic, but it’s like a bit of the winter fog has lifted and I am seeing a little more clearly. I’m learning not only to accept January & February as low-key, introspective months, but I’m trying to embrace it. Yoga helps.
One last anecdote that sums up my experience nicely.. A few days ago I took a Yin class which focuses on relaxation and very slow, gentle stretching. At the end of the class when we were laying in our backs, the instructor suggested visualizing being surrounded by warm water and with every exhale we sank deeper into the water. I thought it was a little cheesy and I let my mind wander back to my breath and body and kind of tuned out the visualization exercise. Several minutes later she said “by now you should be at the bottom of the ocean, still able to breath, but resting in the peace and stillness of the ocean floor.” I giggled to myself because I gave up after a few inches, but I’m glad I caught what she said next. She said “remember this feeling of peace down here and know that you can always come back to it - no matter what waves you’re surfing or are throwing you around on the surface, you can always come back to this space.” Very true & well said.. I needed that reminder!
If you’re inspired to try some yoga, don’t be scared! Many studios offer a trial membership or drop in passes, so you don’t have to commit if you’re not sure you’ll like it. If joining a studio isn’t an option, YOUTUBE IT! There are tons of tutorial videos for all levels & styles and you can do it in your pjs! Let me know if you give it a try - I love chatting with y’all!