I’ve thought about doing yoga for a long time, but never quite got around to it. It’s always been on the list because of my mom and some good friends’ glowing endorsements, but I guess I was a little intimidated and didn’t know how to start. I always thought I needed to get in better shape first, or become more flexible, or otherwise prepare. That’s definitely true that all those things need development for me, particularly the flexibility part, but it’s no impediment to starting yoga.
In fact, the only way to prepare for yoga is by doing it! With other sports, like football for example, things like weightlifting, track workouts, and drills can help prepare you for actual games. Yoga is different, though, because there is no concept of an offseason. If I were going to prepare for a six week yoga retreat six months hence, I wouldn’t do gym workouts or sprints or swim or anything else; I would just do yoga. There is no better way to get better at yoga than doing it. At first I didn’t like the term “practicing” for doing yoga, but I like the term better and better now as I understand the nature of it better.
I took a few classes here and there over the last few years, but about a month ago, I took a class with the right spirit and intentions, and it’s become the most delightful and addicting thing! After attending class every possible day (4-5 days a week) for about a month, I’d say it’s just like the old adage about planting trees: The best time to start yoga was 10 years ago. The second best time to start yoga is now.
It’s definitely for everyone. In my classes, there are children, senior citizens, and extremely overweight people (300 lbs.+) mixed in with the lithe 25 year olds who can nail every single pose.
It’s definitely for guys, too. Granted, my classes are usually 80-100% women, but there are almost always other gentlemen in the classes with me. Some of my best friends still scoff when I tell them about it, but I think I’ll change them eventually before their opinions change me.
The best way I can put it is that EVERYONE practices yoga, without realizing it, but there are only two poses most people do: the supported sit (including the office chair sit, the couchsit and the carsit) and the hunched stand. It’s impossible to understand how limiting this is until you actually conform your body to some of the zillion other poses and arrangements your body is capable of achieving. It’s like the best massage in the world, that your mind gives to your muscles directly.
When I take other kinds of exercise classes, I tend to sort of dread them until they start. Then about 40% of the way through the class, I start wishing it’s over. I’m always glad I went when I’m done, but the hesitation I feel makes it less likely I’ll actually go.
With these yoga classes, I look forward to them before I go. I’m present when I’m in them. When they’re over, I feel incredible, but am sad that they’re done. If my boss gave me three hours off work right now, I’d go find a yoga class in town and go to it. I know it’s possible I’m still in a honeymoon phase, but I can’t imagine ever feeling differently than I do right now. I’m having such extreme progress in flexibility and strength and even muscle development, and while that will all show diminishing returns eventually, it will be a good problem to have.
I have a friend who is a very sucessful investor and real estate developer in NYC, but he works for himself and has no staff and his income is very lumpy. He once told me that when he looks at his bank account to determine how many months or years of living expenses at his current level of consumption are available, he considers his current consumption, but remembers that the only needs he really has are shelter, food, and his Ashtanga yoga studio membership – all else is frivolous. I didn’t understand that before, but I understand it now.