I suppose that some things are an acquired taste, like wine, or running (lol). I never suspected that my own yoga practice would be the very same way. I have said before that I am a team sport athlete. I have always thrived in an environment where I had other like-minded people supporting me, every pitch, every inning, every weights session, every early morning run. It was easy to get better and to push when I could compete with and support those around me. At times, if I got lost I could follow the lead of my teammates to get back on track.
When I began seriously practicing yoga on my own a few years ago, I was confronted with feelings of being lost and inadequate. I was lost amongst the Sanskrit.
Where do I start? Is there a starting point?
What do I do?
What do I want to do?
What should I do?
Where do I look for more answers? Who can help me?
I had been confronted with these questions before when I transitioned from college softball to pro softball in Italy, but I at least had an extensive background and guidance in all things softball to know most of the answers to these questions. Back then, it was a matter of finding the right equipment and a location. With my yoga beginning, I had a mat, a strap, a block, and no idea what poses were named nor what in the actual F they meant or how the Mind/Body connection worked in yoga, not to mention the breathing, which seemed counterintuitive to my own performance training.
It was a rocky beginning. The mat collected dust while I searched for a class and an instructor that spoke to me. I looked for something that could connect to me the way Spinning, softball, and weight lifting had. I understood intensity with those modalities. I understood progressions and alignment after years of softball and weight rooms. Yoga looked so pretty and fun, so why in the hell did I loathe every class?
I went weeks and months without going to classes or practicing. I had nearly given up, when I spied a few people exiting an advanced class at a gym where I taught Spinning. They were sweaty (drenched really), they were happy, they were doing handstands, SWEET MOTHER!!!! That is the class for me! I waltzed into the class the next week, painfully early (I am still painfully early to all classes), and rolled out my mat. I even warned the instructor that I had no idea what I was doing but I liked her style. Little did I know that from that class onward, yoga was going to take me on a wild ride through a fantastic 200 hour teacher training with a friend and respected teacher as my guide.
But all of that did little to help me find my way to a consistent and loved personal practice. I depended on my teachers to move me forward. I WAS, AND STILL AM NOT CALLED TO MY MAT for my own personal benefit. There, I said it! GASP!! A YOGA TEACHER JUST ADMITTED TO STRUGGLING WITH HER PRACTICE!!! I do not long for my mat. With all of the craziness in my life, and the group fitness and softball that I teach and plan for, rolling myself out of bed (sleep is “MY PRECIOUS”) and down to my office/studio for a sweat session just does not happen.
Do you know what does call me to my mat? TEACHING. The class participants. YOU. The more I teach, the more I want to know. The more I know, the more I hit the mat. The more the students respond and give me feedback, the harder I work for them. Each class becomes a puzzle piece. Each person in class has become a part of my team. My personal practice thrives because I found a way to make it a TEAM SPORT. I changed how I saw my practice. Not SOLO. A Team Sport Yoga Practice! YOLO!!! There may be a day that I can get to the mat for my own personal benefit. But my love language has always been one of service, motivation, and lifting others up. For now, I am going with it.
All of this brought me to this question: How do you come to your mat? In a broader group fitness and health sense, how do you come to the gym? Go for a run? Eat the way your doctor says? When there is an activity that you know you should do for your own benefit, but it doesn’t immediately speak to you, how do you make it matter and a worth while endeavor? We all have those things we SHOULD be doing, so knowing what you know about yourself, how can you change your perspective and make them happen?