Two months ago, I woke up, realized that quarantine was probably here to stay, and that I needed to adapt my workouts to I could do inside/that wouldn’t hurt. Despite my admittedly rocky past with yoga, I started practicing everyday. There’s a lot I’ve learned in two months of daily yoga, and almost none of it has to do with the physical aspect of my workouts.
My relationship with fitness has been mainly a cycle of training to the absolute max, hurting something, and starting over. I’ve always been (and this is in general, not just with regard to fitness) not very good at taking things slowly or doing them with grace.
I used to do yoga semi-frequently and hated it because I didn’t feel like I was doing “enough”. I didn’t think I was flexible and I hated that I wasn’t able to just force myself into a different position and somehow achieve what I set out to.
“Forcing it” has been my way of life since I was a kid. In gymnastics, I was never the most talented or the most flexible, but I was willing to tough it out. When I ran marathons in college, this strategy was something I took pride in. I enjoyed going out on a Friday night and waking up the next day to run 14 miles. I liked proving to myself that I was capable.
This isn’t always a drawback. Being able to do this breeds a mental fortitude, and running has a meditative quality that tends to make sucking it up worth it in the end. I’ve always struggled to explain to non-runners how much I need that hour or so with my feet on the pavement. I’ve always felt the most calm, the most grounded when running. I know that starting my day off with a run puts me in a better mood. It makes me more introspective, and helps me think more clearly the rest of the day.
But since my surgeries, running hurts quite a bit, and I can’t justify 8 hours of peace for 48 hours of discomfort.
I’ve done so many other sports seeking a similar release, and making myself do yoga everyday for two months has had an unexpectedly similar effect. I can’t say exactly what sparked the change from “I hate this” to “zen master”, but I’m grateful it occurred. I’ve learned a lot from these two months, and it’s been a welcome dose of peace in an otherwise tumultuous time.
Major lessons from two months of daily yoga
It’s not magic
Somedays, the idea of doing yoga everyday seemed like the worst idea I’ve ever had. Anything more than savasana felt like crap. I wanted to feel magically better, but sometimes it was kind of unpleasant. This unpleasantness wasn’t necessarily a symptom of the yoga itself, but just whatever was going on in my body at the time.
I leaned into this- if I felt like crap at the beginning, I recognized that it was okay to modify or completely change my plan. It didn’t magically make my issues go away nor did it cure me of pain. it forced me to be a bit more aware of where I’m carrying tension in my body and think about what I can do to alleviate it.
You can’t do it wrong (unless you’re doing it really wrong)
Yoga can be altered to work for your body. Folding yourself in half isn’t the only way to do a forward fold and putting your foot behind your head might look cool on Instagram, but if your hips suck (hi), there’s no need to try to get there immediately.
That said my wrists SUCK and definitely hurt after two months of yoga everyday— likely also because I’ve been writing a ton. I’ve started incorporating wrist stretches into my practice and wearing a brace while I sleep and while I’m working.
Again, it’s about how I am adapting my life to be more comfortable for me, and I’m not just putting up with things being uncomfortable or unpleasant.
Self-care doesn’t just mean taking a bath
My partner said it best when we talked about how many aspects of what we consider “self-care” are more of a marketing ploy than a legitimate movement towards self-improvement.
“Self-care isn’t just about taking a [expletive] bath, it’s about ‘what is hurting me right now that I am doing?'”
Tea and face masks are wonderful, but they won’t fix the deeper seated reasons underlying the decisions that we make.
Doing yoga everyday has cued me into more of the real aspects of self-care. While I will sometimes write off half a bottle of Merlot and laying around as self-care, I’ve become more intentional about what I consider to be a self-care activity. Taking a break from my phone, reading a good book, writing a bit, drawing, making a good meal—all of these are acts of care for myself.
Feeling a ‘deeper’ connection isn’t at odds with my scientific beliefs
After the past year-ish of events, I realized that I have also fostered some weirdly negative beliefs about the universe and myself. In my science-driven, agnostic way of looking at myself and life, I was negating my ability to be in touch with myself.
Having good bodily awareness and recognizing how I am living might contribute to pain does not equate to replacing my meds with crystals and wishful thinking.
I still do roll my eyes at YouTube as soon as someone mentions how a pose will “boost my immunity”, but I am able to recognize that my immunity is almost certainly not boosted by stress (cortisol strikes again!) and yoga helps mitigate my stress levels, so maybe it’s true.
I want to keep doing yoga everyday
(Not just because I bought a new yoga mat and am now subscribed to the Patreon of my favorite YouTube yogis, but sunk cost, am I right?)
I want to keep doing this because I am noticing that it is good for me. I might not be seeing huge physical changes or a big difference in my strength or flexibility, and I’m okay with that. The mere fact that I am okay with that speaks volumes about my personal growth.
Everything that I have learned through 2 months of yoga has been the result of many pieces coming together. I don’t believe that yoga is a cure all, nor do I believe that my issues have magically resolved themselves. It’s given me the tools I need to understand myself and ask some of the questions that have been difficult for me to answer.
Also my hips are really bad. It’s probably best I stretch regularly.