Kelly: Hope for New Things
When I first started to think about making yoga a part of my life, I will admit, it was nerve racking and a little scary. I started practicing yoga about three months ago, and it has changed my life in ways I never imagined. Let me first back up and tell you a little bit about myself.
I have always been athletic. I played soccer, tennis, basketball and softball through middle school and then cut down to only tennis and soccer in high school. I was never *the best* at either of them, but I did play varsity tennis for three years. Through all of these activities I developed knee problems. Not any injury in particular, but just an annoying soreness that would not go away.
I went to physical therapy. I had an MRI, and other tests. They never found anything really wrong. The conclusion was always that my hamstrings, as well as other leg muscles and tendons, were tight so that was causing increased tension on my knee cap and in the knee area.
I was given exercises to do. As a typical high school kid, I was very inconsistent about doing those exercises. In a span of about five years, I went to three different physical therapists. Each of them reinforced the same thing: you need to keep up on the exercises at home. I never did that for more than a few weeks. I knew I had poor flexibility and tight muscles, but I always just chalked it up to the fact that I am 5’10” and I have long legs. I was convinced I couldn’t change it. I knew that I would never be able to touch my toes, and that was just how it was gonna be.
I went to college. Stress happened, and I got lazy. I wasn’t nearly as active – although I did teach tennis for a local recreation league a couple of summers. Throughout my college years, the knee pain was still there – but not as much of a bother since I wasn’t really playing sports or doing anything very active. I did take a few classes here and there at the campus rec center, but nothing on a regular basis. Since I had flexibility issues, I was hesitant to take classes because I thought I would be “the one” in the class that couldn’t do the things that were asked and would look like a fool.
Fast forward a few years. I just got married and have a wonderful, fun, job. However, this job has lead to me sitting in a chair for numerous hours a day. Great right? Easy, lazy, job sitting in a chair? Yeah I thought so too. My body did not think so. I started having back issues. Again, nothing serious, just soreness and pain. When I went to my annual physical, I told my doctor about the pain and expected to come out with a prescription for more physical therapy. My doctor suggested yoga. Really? But my back hurts already, how am I going to be able to put myself in those positions? And not to mention, my inability to touch my toes – I will definitely look like a fool! Well, I guess I could maybe give it a try.
So, hesitantly, I began my search for a yoga studio. I had lots of questions:
How do I know what kind of yoga I should do?
Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, what the heck is the difference?
I know they say that classes are good for all skill levels…..but really?
Seriously, how would I ever be flexible enough to do this?
Coincidentally, a couple of weeks later I got an email from a local store. They were partnering with a local gym to offer outdoor yoga classes once a week for the whole summer. Well, this sounds like a good start! Then I checked the prices. Um, how much? Really? Oh boy, how am I going to convince my husband that I was going to spend this much money on yoga classes?!
Luckily, it didn’t take much convincing. He agreed that I need to do something about the pain that my body is in and this might just be the thing that I need. There was an option to pay class to class or sign up for the whole summer. I signed up for the whole summer. How could I skip out on a class that I had already payed for? Sounds like pretty good motivation to me.
The first day of class I was nervous. There were about 30 people there. Luckily, everyone running the class was very nice and friendly. My first class came and went. I got excited. Yes, I was quite sore afterwards….and the next day….and the next day. But it was a good soreness. It told me that my body was working on fixing the things that needed to be fixed.
I kept going to class, week after week. I got used to the flow of class, and the different poses. My instructor is fantastic. She is very enthusiastic and fun. Each class is very similar, but never exactly the same. One of the things I like most about her style is that she always throws in random tidbits about why we are doing a pose, or what we are benefiting from by doing the pose. One day she said something that hit a chord with me. She explained how all of the muscles and tendons in your body are connected. When there is a pain or soreness in one area, it is not just that area that needs to be worked, you need to work all surrounding areas as well. Why didn’t anyone ever say this to me before? (or maybe they did and I just ignored them thinking I knew what I was doing.)
So now, after nine weeks of class, I am more flexible than I ever though I could be. It is still hard, and I am still sore after class. But guess what? I can touch my toes. Really touch my toes – sometimes even the floor. I would guess that I gained 6-8 inches of flexibility. I never ever though I would be close to able to do that.
One of the things that I love the most about yoga, is that every pose is different for every person. Just because some poses come easily to you, doesn’t mean that all of them will. Different people are strong and weak in different areas. This realization really helped me stress out less about being in a class full of people. I was no longer concerned about how I compared to the others.
Yoga has had a few other benefits as well. It has made me more aware of my breathing. This helps when I am stressed, especially when I am laying in bed trying to sleep. I concentrate on my breath and it clears my head and calms me down. Being able to touch my toes was something that I never thought I would be able to do.
Yoga has taught me a different way of thinking. Through stretching and coming to class on a regular basis, I am now able to touch my toes. Something that I never thought was a possibility. That realization of the impossible becoming possible really helped me have a more positive attitude in other areas of my life. I now have hope for things that I once thought were an impossibility.