Home Exercise 101 5 Things I Learned From Practicing Yoga

5 Things I Learned From Practicing Yoga

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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 detailsΒ  – 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.

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Joslyn @ missfitbliss March 21, 2011 - 9:44 AM

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

Laura March 21, 2011 - 10:02 AM

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

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

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.

DaniBel March 21, 2011 - 10:08 AM

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 - 11:16 AM

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!!

AP March 21, 2011 - 11:18 AM

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.

Kirsten March 21, 2011 - 12:40 PM

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 πŸ™‚



Eva March 21, 2011 - 1:18 PM

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 - 5:06 PM

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.

Sara March 21, 2011 - 1:33 PM

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 - 2:02 PM

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 - 5:25 PM

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 - 6:16 PM

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…

Ladi Ohm March 21, 2011 - 4:13 PM

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.


dana March 21, 2011 - 4:13 PM

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.

zanjabil March 21, 2011 - 11:21 PM

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 πŸ™ 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 πŸ™‚ So thanks, lady.

Sadiqua March 22, 2011 - 10:13 AM

I do yoga inconsistently but I feel good when I do it. I have FIOS and the onDemand channel has at least a dozen yoga workouts under the “health and home” section. Comcast had them too. I have a Y membership and I’d love to go take classes there but I am still way too shy to bust my a** in front of ppl lol! I am going to make an effort to do it everyday with my daily Pilates.

CoCo March 22, 2011 - 9:57 PM

Just in case a bigger person reads this and feels interested but left out (like I always did when people talked about yoga), there is a DVD called HeavyWeight Yoga: Yoga for the Body You Have Today for large/obese people. It’s very, very helpful with getting started and learning to use your body in a different way. I found it for a good price online and so far I like it.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 22, 2011 - 10:03 PM
Nikki March 30, 2011 - 12:19 PM


Thanks you for this post! I recently discovered and love Namaste Yoga, and try to practice whenever I can in a full and hectic household. My question is, do you or anyone else know what specific form or practice of yoga is it that the show follows?

Being fairly new to this, I am not completely clear on the difference between Hatha and vinyasa and the variety of others that are available in NY. I just know that I love Namaste and would like to find a live class similar to it so that I can practice away from home, so I figure the best way to start is figuring out what school of yoga is it that Namaste follows. Please help!

Erika Nicole Kendall March 30, 2011 - 12:54 PM

I believe it’s a form of vinyasa yoga, actually. I’ll check my books and we’ll see.

Valkyrie607 May 30, 2011 - 9:47 AM

Wonderful! I have been practicing yoga on and off since it was first introduced to me as a teenager. These days, I often use http://www.yogatoday.com, as they have a weekly free class that you can stream on video.

Celeste May 30, 2011 - 9:59 AM

I cannot believe I’m reading this article today! I finished a yoga class yesterday feeling totally dejected. “Why can’t I hold the downward facing dog longer?” ” Why are my arms burning like fire when it looks like everyone else is breeding through these poses?” I’ve been doing yoga on and off for years but this is the first time I’ve committed to a challenging class. I thought I could or should be handling it much better by now. After speaking with one of the fitness people at the gym, she assured me that 1. The classes are meant to be challenging, if you’re sailing through them- you’re slacking a little. 2. I’m doing better, but give myself time. Stop worry about not hurting and realize I’m still new at this. 3. I’ll be fine and to keep practicing!

Seeing this post proved heavenly confirmation for me. You said all the way back in March what I was feeling just yesterday. I too have learned those lessons and will continue to listen to my body (sometimes my mind plays tricks on me!) as I learn to center myself, get my body stronger and conquer poses I thought were impossible.

Sorry for the long post but I was just astonished at how God shares little pearls of wisdom if you are open enough to find and receive them.

Rasheedah July 19, 2011 - 11:10 AM

do u suggest a particular type of Yoga for beginners??

Erika Nicole Kendall July 19, 2011 - 12:26 PM

There are yoga videos on this blog that I HIGHLY recommend for newbies – it’s what I used to begin, and the guidance that Kate Potter offers is kind of awesome.

Sandip August 8, 2011 - 7:39 PM

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
A Hindu who loves Yoga

Loretta October 28, 2011 - 9:48 PM

Interesting. I have been looking at yoga or pilates. Just looking for some where to begin…I am not sure where to start and which ‘branch’ of yoga to use.

Angela May 10, 2012 - 11:53 AM

Can anyone tell me if bikram would be good for a beginner? I’m wondering if I can handle the heat. I’m heavy and older and wonder if it would be too much for me to handle. I currently do not exercise at all. Thanks.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 10, 2012 - 12:11 PM

Bikram? I don’t believe that’s a safe space for a BEGINNER to the practice. I DO, however, believe you’d thrive in a basics class that’d prepare you to handle the pace and heat involved with hot yoga.

Janine November 2, 2012 - 1:58 PM

Hmm, I think (correct me if I’m wrong, anybody!) that Bikram is a set series of postures at a set pace in a 120 degree room. From all accounts it is a pretty intense practice! But if you want to build up to Bikram, or just practice other styles in heat, there are studios that are heated vinyasa studios that keep their temps around 90-95 degrees and have basics classes or classes with more variety than the set sequence of Bikram. You could always try one of those.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 3, 2012 - 7:46 PM

Is it 120? I think lots of different places that offer “hot yoga” are using different temperatures, but I’m not certain it’s supposed to be that high. I feel like I remember the magic number being 104 degrees… just so that the “120” number doesn’t scare anyone off, LOL.

Alexandrea Ward June 3, 2012 - 1:15 PM

I’m also a beginner with yoga. Still learning as much as I can, devouring videos and links as much as I can. So I know exactly what you’re talking about in the article. I wish I could get to a yoga class to learn more poses and all that but I figured that it would happen when it’s supposed to, because yoga is a lifelong practice.

Jessica June 6, 2012 - 7:38 AM

Conquering yoga is one of my top goals for this summer. I have started and stopped yoga several times…paying for weeks at a time and only going 1 or 2 times. I was so hard on myself when I couldn’t do the poses. Being overweight and very heavy chested, I always found myself struggling to get into a pose and when there, maintaining it. I was constantly sweating and out of breath…not at all the “zen” experience I expected yoga to be. Meanwhile, the lady in front is practically putting her leg over her head! Yes, I know I shouldn’t be paying attention to others but it was kinda hard to miss…haha. But I am going to return to it…slowly. Maybe I will start off at home at my own pace and then return to classes.

Anu Prestonia July 20, 2012 - 3:33 PM

Congratulations yogini Erika! Thank you for reminding me why I can not live long without the preciousness of my yoga practice. I enjoyed reading the organic way in which you found your path to learning this ancient healing arts form. Continue to shine!

Katrina February 17, 2014 - 5:27 PM

Great read πŸ™‚ I’m new to what I’ll call the committed version of my yoga practice.

Jacqueline Jones March 14, 2014 - 4:03 PM

Great article. I’m a big fun of yoga myself. It all started a few years back when I used to have a back problem. My doctor recommended me to take yoga classes.
I’m so glad I took her advice! Have been doing yoga since then and my back problems are gone πŸ™‚
I just recently also tried Bikram yoga. You are exercising in a 40 degree celcius room. It’s not easy but I loved it and would highly recommend everyone to try it.

Kimberly July 20, 2014 - 2:51 PM

I love yoga. I am following the P90x3 program, and it includes a 30 minute yoga workout. It’s brutal, but relaxing. Love it.

Mafalda July 25, 2014 - 1:57 AM

Hi, this was a great article. I used to have a steady yoga practice a few years ago but sorta fell off. I’ll be visiting New York City in a few days and was wondering if you could recommend any african american or black owned yoga studios.


Erika Nicole Kendall July 25, 2014 - 2:44 PM

I believe both Urban Asanas in Brooklyn and Harlem Yoga are black-owned, and I’m sure they’d be welcome and open to seeing your lovely face. πŸ™‚

Mafalda July 26, 2014 - 9:48 PM

Thanks for sharing this! I will check them out.

Mbeti October 3, 2014 - 6:35 PM

Have you noticed when you search for yoga and get info on yoga poses and exercises all or most all (I have not seen exceptions) of the models are white european females?

Erika Nicole Kendall October 9, 2014 - 10:07 PM

I have, unfortunately! With any luck, BGG2WL can help change that in the 21st century! <3

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