I have been practicing yoga for a little over 8 months. I wanted to take the time to write about the impacts it has had on my life.
During my time in graduate school, I experienced issues with my lower back. I injured the area during a pickup game of basketball at the university’s recreational center. The combination of the injury and being hunched over a keyboard for the majority of the day left my back in a very weakened state. There were some mornings I could barely get out of bed. If I would arch my back too far, I would get shooting pains just above my tailbone. This pain continued for the remainder of my time in graduate school.
As with most classes in graduate school, you are required to work on a group project with a handful of other students. In my final class, I was paired with an engineering student who seemed very different from any student I had met before. He had a quiet confidence about him. He was always present, never got too stressed about anything. I saw him doing different stretches in the middle of the day in the middle of campus. He did not care what others thought. During one of our meetings about the group project, we began to talk about more interesting subjects like life, the universe, and what we think it all means. During this talk, he mentioned that he had been practicing yoga for a while. I had always read about the physical and mental benefits of yoga, so hearing him say this peaked my interest. I began to question him about his practice and what effects it has had over him. His answer was very simple. “It has changed my life.” From that moment forward I knew I had to try it.
I joined a nearby gym in May of last year. For about a month, I went to this gym and ignored the fact they offer yoga classes. The truth is, I didn’t have the courage to try out the class. I had the thoughts of, “I’m a man. I’m not flexible. It may be perceived as ‘girly’, etc.” I continued to read about the benefits of yoga and finally I overcame my childish fears and went to a class. I stayed near the back and just tried to follow what the others were doing. I feel I was in pretty good shape at the time, but that class whipped my butt. My wrists hurt from holding Down Dog. My legs were shaking from holding the various Warrior poses. There were a couple of guys in the class, but the vast majority were women. I was humbled by how strong these people were. At the end of the one-hour class, I was very tired, but my body felt different. It was like my body was given a drink of a substance it had needed for quite a while. I was hooked.
I continued to go to this class for several weeks, and I grew stronger and stronger. I eventually moved towards the front of the class, and would routinely stay after and ask questions of the teacher. There was a more advanced class that is held on the following evening. I started to attend it and my strength, flexibility, and confidence continued to grow. I am still attending both classes during the week. I am working towards being able to do headstand poses. Eventually I would like to be able to do headstand pushups and “walk” around on my hands. Yoga is not about the destination, it is about the journey.
The benefits I have experienced have been incredible. I no longer have low back issues. I feel more centered. I feel more in control of situations and my emotions. I feel more confident. The gain in core strength has been amazing. My balance is better. I’m more flexible. If you are curious about the benefits of yoga, but are scared to try it, I highly recommend just taking the plunge. It is worth it.