For most of my life, I never really studied yoga and didn’t know much about it. When I was 18 I decided it was time to learn so I signed up for a class at my college. However, I did not fall in love with yoga right away. At that time my opinion was, “I don’t like yoga, but I see its value and think it’s important for anyone’s health.” There were a lot of reasons I felt this way. I tried to practice occasionally, but I mostly just tried to get some stretching in when I could. I didn’t do yoga or yoga videos very often. It would be many more years before I actually felt a connection to it, and felt a need to pick up a regular practice.
I’ve always enjoyed exercise, but yoga never came naturally to me. As I worked on it in my college class, I felt uncomfortable and thought about why. My favorite sport growing up was swimming. I competitively swam for six years. When in class I realized that swimming is the complete opposite of yoga. In swimming, you need to move as fast as you can without breathing, but when transitioning through yoga poses you need to move slowly, or not at all, and focus on continuously breathing. Yoga is NOT easy, and I wasn’t used to pushing my body in that way, in that format.
At this point in time, I was still only exercising on and off. To be completely honest, I was a yo-yo exerciser. One month here or there, I’d exercise almost every day and eat lots of vegetables. Then I wouldn’t even stretch and eat lots of pasta for a month or two. When I was under times of stress, I took care of myself horribly. It’s something I still work on to this day. But this made it hard for me to truly enjoy and fall in love with yoga, because just doing a little here or there didn’t connect me to the practice.
At the start of 2017, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. It was time to become committed to making a lifelong change. I am proud to say I was more motivated than I’ve ever been, and I worked out on average over 20 days each month of the year. I have made it a habit and something I love to do. But for the most part, I wasn’t spending any time on my yoga mat. My favorite kinds of exercise are HIIT and weight training. Yoga enters my journey in December of 2017. That’s when I started to realize these unique tips helped me finally find a connection with the practice.
Tips to Fall in Love with Yoga
I had just finished a long, hard HIIT workout program that helped me get back into shape after making an international move. I decided I needed to take a break, but I knew I needed to keep exercise in my routine too. So for the hundredth time, I tried yoga. But I didn’t do just any random video out there. I actually elected to start a 3-week beginner yoga series, so that the workouts were progressing throughout the week. This gave me an intention each day. I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the end of three weeks, I just dedicated myself to allowing the yoga to be my only workout each day.
Finally, the magic started to happen. I noticed that the moves were a lot easier because I had already built up a certain level of strength. Having the videos progress from easier in the beginning to more difficult at the end helped me build confidence. By the time we were trying out the tougher moves, I actually felt like I could do it, and I wanted to go for it! I found that my foundation in other types of exercise actually supported my yoga practice a lot. Being somewhat already in shape actually turned out to be key for me personally to fall in love with yoga.
Not everyone is the same. For some people, yoga is the first exercise they ever try and they immediately love practicing yoga poses. But if you’re like me, you have to develop a passion for exercise and a dedication for your body before the love of yoga really starts to click.
Connect With Your Breath
After a year of butt kicking HIIT and strength, I was finally able to connect with my breath. When you’re doing exercise that’s so intense, or pushing yourself really hard, you have to take control of your breath and use it to support you. I wasn’t inherently great at this, so it was something I had to learn through practice. As I said before, I originally had a hard time connecting to my breath, because of the slowness of some of the movements and yoga poses. Once I learned to control my breath through a difficult HIIT interval, or to get me through those last couple of reps, I had an easier time connecting to it at all times.
Yoga is all about the breath. The breath guides the movements and builds strength inside you. Until I had this stronger connection with my breath, I couldn’t fall in love with yoga like I wanted to. Now I’m beginning to enjoy the practice more. It’s still not always easy, but I find joy in the challenge. Holding a pose doesn’t feel strange anymore, it feels relaxing. I really think that now that I am used to pushing my body hard, I’m able to enjoy my body being soft.
Focus on the Journey, not the Destination
Throughout the program I gained strength and confidence, and I easily finished the entire three weeks. I realized I wanted to add this exercise to my regimen more regularly. I like to start my mornings on my yoga mat now. But, I don’t always do it every morning. However keeping some amount of consistency has helped me connect to the practice even more. Especially since it is something that still challenges me.
I never plan on being a super-bendy, super-strong, ultra-yogi. I do yoga because it is an easy exercise that I can add to my regular routine to improve my health and fitness even more. When it gets tough, I don’t worry about falling over or not being able to bend a certain way. Just trying something difficult works your body and burns calories.
I do have one specific (and tiny) goal, and that is to be able to wrap my hands over my feet in a seated forward fold. (I’ve already reached the touch-your-toes benchmark.) But more importantly than that, I have fallen in love with practicing yoga, and just want to continue to use it to improve my overall health.
Hopefully, with these tips you’ll find your own path to loving yoga. After all, it is a great exercise for all body types! If you’re looking for other easy workouts, try this 20 Minute Floor Workout that can be done anytime, anywhere.