Gone are the days in the 1970’s when the average yogi was your stereotypical hippy. Yoga has evolved to become an integral part of the cultural mainstream, with more people reaching out to the ancient practice than ever before. The industry is now worth $27 billion dollars in America alone! But what is it that draws so many in? I can’t speak for everyone – although I have met many fellow yogis who originally got into the practice because of sports injuries, to get fit or lose weight – but I can share my own experiences :)
Although I dabbled a bit in ‘casual yoga’ during my university days, I never really saw much point in it. I’m sure my yogalates teacher was sent from the depths of military hell; barking at us to hold challenging and conditioning poses for what felt like minutes at a time. On the other hand the guy who taught me when I moved to study my Masters was the opposite – haphazard and frazzled, and asking us all to ‘flower our anus’ in downward facing dog. It’s not exactly surprising that I didn’t have the most positive image of yoga back then, and when my mental health was at its most fragile, I didn’t believe the people around me who were recommending yoga as a cure for anxiety. As I mentioned in my last post, I thought it was too slow and, fearful that it would make me STOP and be with my mind even for a few minutes, I was too terrified to unroll my mat. How wrong I was!
My better half, Mike, eventually convinced me to simply try slowing down and getting on my mat, just once, and that was the moment everything changed! My love affair with Yoga Download knew no bounds, and I worked my way up from barely being able to touch my knees, to getting my palms flat on the mat. But physical prowess was secondary to the differences I noticed with my mental well being. I was calmer, happier, more confident and more comfortable in my own skin. I was no longer afraid of just sitting and doing nothing; a far cry from the girl who couldn’t bear her own thoughts. Years later, and now that I have a daily practice (either at the studio or at home), I feel stronger than ever. Of course, there are times when my emotions well up when I’m in a particular asana, but I acknowledge them, embrace them, and move on. I especially love the fact that every yogi is forever a student – different days bring new challenges both on and off the mat – but with every class I feel so much more empowered.
Have you ever done yoga? What were your first impressions?