Building Strength by Breaking Yoga Stereotypes
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Yoga haters think that yoga is just deep stretching. "Real exercise" must involve lifting weights or running a marathon! It's crazy to me that in order to build strength, you have to inflict a serious impact on your body. I'm pretty sure this doesn't happen from stretching:
As someone with twig-like arms, I was shocked to wake up one day to see this in the mirror. I had muscles underneath my armpits and in my back that I didn't even know existed. Even though I've been practicing yoga since 2015, my practice truly transformed me in 2017 when I met the yoga teacher. She helped me unlearn and relearn yoga, which ultimately transformed my body and my mind (muchas gracias mamacita).
Yoga encourages you to slow down, listen to your body, and focus on the one thing you can actually control - your breath. How often do we do any of those things on a regular basis?
When I was a teacher, one of my students asked me "Ms. Lee, why are you always sighing?"
I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Apparently, I was exhaling harshly at random times. When I paid attention to my body, I realized that I was holding my breath. My levels of stress prevented me from breathing normally. I also noticed that I would tightly hold my arms while standing, or grip the steering wheel while driving.
Pain acts like an alarm for the body, but not all pain is obvious at first. When you slow down and listen to your body, you might find layers of pain buried underneath the surface, waiting to take over. Our bodies are smart. Even when we think we can control it, eventually it will do what it wants. Pain isn't always physical. It can activate while we're sleeping (grinding our teeth) or manifest into a panic attack.
Yoga helped me peel back layers of pain, explore them, and work towards healing them. I noticed that if I go more than a few days without yoga, I start to feel cranky and tight. Let me be clear: yoga is not the cure-all for anxiety and stress. If anyone claims that one particular solution will solve your problems, then call them on their bullshit. It takes experimentation and time to figure out what works for you, so give yourself permission to explore.
When someone finds out that I practice yoga, they usually follow-up with "Do you also meditate?" The answer: sometimes. Meditating is simple but not easy. For someone like me who has a non-stop chattering mind, it's really hard to sit still in silence. Lately, I've been listening to guided meditations where I have to envision something in my mind or I practice chanting. Actually, I've been more excited about chanting these days because my Shiba Inu will quietly howl along with me if he's on my frequency.
I try to practice yoga and meditate every day, but truthfully, some weeks are better than others. There are times when I'm consistent and other times when I make excuses to roll out my mat. It's been particularly difficult lately because we're still in the midst of a global pandemic. Either way, my body doesn't cut me any slack - if I skip my practice, then I will be reminded of it.
Are you curious about yoga but not sure if it's for 'someone like you'? Let me bust two yoga myths real quick:
One yoga class will not tell you if you're a 'yoga person.' There are many types of yoga and even more variety of yoga instructors. Experiment with different types of classes and instructors before you write off yoga completely.
You don't have to be a young, skinny bitch wearing Lululemon pants to practice yoga. The strongest yogis I've encountered are senior citizens and they definitely don't wear Lululemon.
Ready to give it a try? Click here to start your first yoga class for free in the comfort of your own home.
And remember to breathe.