HomeExercise 101, Friday 5, Work It Out!5 Things I Learned From Practicing Yoga

5 Things I Learned From Practicing Yoga

I remember when I first decided to start practicing yoga.

My daughter woke up at o’dark thirty – that’s country-talk for too-damn-early-for-toddlers – and I was getting breakfast all situated. I was feeling kinda jazzy and decided to turn to

[what was then] FitTV, and started flipping through the TV Guide to see what shows they’d be offering. That’s when I saw it.

Namaste Yoga. A yoga show that aired 7 days a week called Namaste Yoga became my newest conquest. I mean, I wanted an activity outside of cardio and weights that would allow me to enjoy myself while still developing some new ability in the end… and yoga would, apparently, be it.

The show would air the same episode all day – once at 8:30, again at 12:30 and a third time at 6PM – and I decided to capitalize on the opportunity. I’d merely watch the first airing, practice during the second airing and go full in during the third airing. Why not?

That was two years ago. Several seasons, at least four different variations of yoga practice and countless yoga books later… I think I’m made a better woman for it. I definitely know I’m a much more fit woman – both physically and emotionally – for it.

Embracing yoga taught me something about committing to my body that I never had the opportunity to learn, before. Whenever I “took a break” from yoga, I came back to it rusty. Stopping caused me to lose not only the ability I’d developed, but the benefits of the ability that I’d developed. If I, as a beginner, learned how to hold the plank position for longer than thirty seconds, then take off from yoga for a month? Coming back to it and trying to get that 30 seconds in while holding the pose… is a hard lesson to learn. The only way I could see maintained and continued development of my body was through choosing to commit to it. That commitment wouldn’t come by happenstance.

Yoga taught me perseverance. There’s no more common a feeling than when you struggle trying to get into position for a yoga pose, and you fail. Miserably. There’s only one feeling that’s better than when you struggle trying to get a pose and finally get it. That feeling? When you stop struggling with it. The number of times I’ve fallen flat on my forehead trying to get that darn crane pose down pat have finally resulted in a time where I can at LEAST stop flattening my forehead and balance a bit better. I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll effortlessly fly into position and just hang out there for a while.

Yoga taught me patience. I couldn’t just jump into it, because I’d either fail to keep up or I’d bust my tail. I had to understand that there were things I’d have to learn in order to be an effective and successful yogi. Yoga requires a certain level of strength and flexibility that doesn’t come overnight. Trying the side plank before my body was strong enough would’ve meant that I would’ve injured myself. Being patient with my body and waiting for my strength and flexibility to catch up to what I was mentally prepared for was a challenge, but it has taught me that when I reach a place of anxiety or frustration in my life… to just be patient. I’m not the only one with lessons to learn in life, and we’re all in different places as we learn those lessons.

Yoga taught me humility. Nothing – no book reading, no person “teaching” you – can prepare you for what it’s like that first time you try to get into what you consider an “easy” position, and you find out that it hurts. A lot. Nothing can prepare you for the first time you assume a pose that’s as seemingly easy as the Warrior II pose, only to find that after a few seconds, your shoulders and biceps hurt like hell because they’re not strong enough to hold your entire arm up the way you thought they were. Arrogance, in yoga, can get you embarrassed at best and hurt at worst. Approaching everything like a beginner who needs to soak up every ounce of information, no matter how many years you’ve been practicing, ensures that you pay enough attention to the small details  – how is the foot turned? are you sitting on the ground or on the heel of your foot? – necessary to execute a pose properly. Approaching a pose like an expert simply because it looks easy means you’re probably missing the mechanics that make that “easy” pose a challenge, and your time and efforts are wasted simply because you thought too highly of yourself.

Yoga taught me the value of silence… and listening. Not in telling my body what I want, but in remaining silent and listening to my body. If my body tells me its not ready to balance on one leg while I hold the other in the air behind me (dancer pose)? I listen. I’m not strong enough for that yet… so I proceed with caution. Through the other principles, I learn to dutifully continue practicing my pose until I develop the strength, flexibility and trust in my abilities to get it done.

And I’ll give you a bonus one – yoga taught me how incredible the human body truly is, and that – with time – it can grow to handle almost anything you throw at it. Treat it right, and the rewards will be plentiful.

As I’m in a period of time where I’m learning how to fit more yoga into my daily routines, I’m getting back into incorporating these principles into my daily life as well. I’ve learned that approaching things in my life as a commitment that I’ve chosen has changed how I solve problems in my life. Yoga taught me the value of perseverance and never quitting. Yoga taught me to approach everything as a novice – no matter how advanced I become – because there is always something to learn. Yoga taught me how to listen to my body and not let my mind get the best of me.

Most importantly, it taught me to trust myself. It taught me to trust my commitments and my efforts, because even though the human body doesn’t produce immediate results – with anything – it will produce results. There’s no doubt about that.

By | 2017-06-10T11:20:30+00:00 March 27th, 2015|Exercise 101, Friday 5, Work It Out!|42 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and crtified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because lol why not.

42 Comments

  1. Joslyn @ missfitbliss March 21, 2011 at 9:44 AM - Reply

    This is all so true. Especially the humility piece. No one will ever be a master at yoga!

  2. Laura March 21, 2011 at 10:02 AM - Reply

    What ever happened to FitTV? Is there another option now? I used to love Namaste Yoga….so relaxing.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall March 21, 2011 at 10:05 AM - Reply

      It’s now “Discovery Fit & Health.” Oprah’s new network replaced Discovery Health, and Discovery blended Discovery Health and FitTV so the two are now combined.

      Namaste Yoga still comes on now at like 7:30AM MWF and (I think) late nights Saturday and Sunday.

  3. DaniBel March 21, 2011 at 10:08 AM - Reply

    I’m not a very flexible person but I decided to give yoga a try anyway. Waking up with Rodney Yee every morning has been great for my flexibility, posture, strength, and self-confidence. Sage pose is not as easy as it looks especially when you have a lot of body mass. But I push through anyway because it feels good and it makes me pay attention to my muscles, my breathing and my progress. Plus, starting the day out thinking about my body and my health leads to healthy choices throughout the day. One day soon I’m going to try the Namaste Yoga workout. That’s my goal. But for now, I’m doing beginner’s with Rodney an enjoying little yoga victories every day.

    • Dedra March 21, 2011 at 11:16 AM - Reply

      I love “Yoga for Life” with Kurt Johnson on Veria. Comes on twice a day a 6am & 9am CST. Yoga has truly become for me an important part of my life. I feel out of balance when I don’t practice at least 4 days a week. Strength, flexibility, weight loss and stress relief….you can’t beat it!!

  4. AP March 21, 2011 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    I took about a month off from yoga on accident and when I went back last week I felt soooo rusty and raggedy. I love it. I take a class once or twice per week and do some poses in my stretching. I think I’m going to start doing it daily thanks to you.

  5. Kirsten March 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM - Reply

    Erika ~

    This is the most awesome post! I LOVE it! People truly do not realize how beneficial it is ~ it’s so funny because you are SO right that things looks easy once you do them!

    Thank you so much for sharing it ~ I am going to revisit my yoga now 🙂

    Hugs,

    Kirsten

  6. Eva March 21, 2011 at 1:18 PM - Reply

    So true. And Namaste Yoga is STILL on, but it’s only on Sundays at 7:30am.

    The reason I’m having knee problems today is because I stopped doing Yoga, and I’d been doing it since I was about 12 years old, no joke. There was a show on public TV called Lilas, Yoga and You that I watched every single day. It really helped me deal with the trauma that was going on in my life then.

    • Mia August 20, 2012 at 5:06 PM - Reply

      I watched Lilas, Yoga & You when I was a little girl. It aired on the public access channel in Monroe and I loved it, but I didn’t really begin practicing consistently until much later.

  7. Sara March 21, 2011 at 1:33 PM - Reply

    I’ve been thinking about Yoga for awhile now, i even made a spot in my dressing room to do it in the mornings, but a friend scared me into not trusting it..she said that the poses are of a demonic nature. Now i’m not bible thumping or anything i happend to think it brings about peace of mind and a good way to build up your Strength, flexibility, weight loss and stress relief so i’m confused as to what to believe.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall March 21, 2011 at 2:02 PM - Reply

      I have no desire to challenge or question anyone’s personal relationship with their religion, but just because yoga isn’t a facet of Christianity doesn’t mean it is inherently demonic or “bad” by any means… and I’d implore you to do some research of your own into the history of yoga and how it has – for better or worse – branched off into a practice that challenges the body on its own.

      I don’t praise anyone when I practice yoga. My actions are defined by what’s in my heart and mind when I put my hands together and form a pose. If it “looks demonic” to develop the strength in my quads, calves and abs to be able to balance on one leg while holding the other in the air? You’ll just have to call me demonic, then. In my heart lies no demonic forces, and that’s the bottom line.

      In short… please – PLEASE – research for yourself. Don’t google “yoga is demonic” because I’m sure there’s more than enough fearmongering out there. Google “history of yoga” and look for yourself. After that, THEN look at “yoga is demonic” and see whether or not it makes sense to you. That’s all I can say.

      • DaniBel March 21, 2011 at 5:25 PM - Reply

        I’d like to add that if you do some research on the internet, you’ll find a number of Christian yoga instructors and Christian yoga clubs. But if you’re concern is not really with Christianity or religious implications, just take a look at the poses themselves and then decide for yourself whether or not the movement, flexibility and potential of the human body should be defined as “demonic”.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall March 21, 2011 at 6:16 PM - Reply

          Agreed. Check out the links to yoga poses that I shared and check out the rest of the poses. The yogajournal website is a great resource for people to check out poses.

          I mean, I can understand people being afraid of what yoga allows for the body to learn to do… but to consider that, on its face as demonic? Hmmm…

  8. Ladi Ohm March 21, 2011 at 4:13 PM - Reply

    I love yoga… I can’t afford a studio membership, but I do like to attend classes every once in a while (thank you groupons). I’m actually starting a Bikram class tonight, and these points were so helpful… especially to take everything as a beginner, and have some patience with myself.

    There are tons of great yoga dvds out there for home practice. My former roommate is a yoga instructor, and she keeps me informed about great dvds so I’m not waisting $20. Anything by the Yoga Zone or Baron Baptiste studios are excellent. Baron Baptiste even as a few cds. Those are really wonderful once you’re familiar with the poses… you don’t have to worry about messing up your aligment to look at the tv screen.

    Namaste

  9. dana March 21, 2011 at 4:13 PM - Reply

    This was a great post and motivated me to start going to classes and practicing again.

    My first and favorite yoga teacher was an African American woman who was a pioneer in the yoga world (Rosalia Holt). She taught classes daily until her death at 86.

  10. zanjabil March 21, 2011 at 11:21 PM - Reply

    Great post. I’ve practiced yoga off and on(mostly on) for about 8 years, then for some reason after the birth of my 4th child I totally fell off of it. I practiced hatha yoga, then I did Bikram yoga 5 days a week for 3 months, and fell off of that too. I have done yoga once in the past 6 months, and I was so rusty 🙁 I’ve been doing cardio and weights lifting mostly, and haven’t yet worked yoga back into my fitness regimen. Your post has inspired me to get back into it 🙂 So thanks, lady.

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