On Friday, January 6th 2017 I walked into the first Yoga class of my life at YogaSol as part of fulfilling a new years resolution.
I was in the best shape of my life. I was running, swimming and lifting weights multiple times a week. I weighed 165 pounds and was at 9% body fat. I was also really stressed at work, my blood pressure had moved into the hypertension range and I felt like my life was stuck in permanent decision paralysis.
Mark was my teacher that day for a “Gentle Flow” class that lasted 60 minutes and was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The flow made me feel childish (What hand is my left?) and weak (Downward Dog is a resting position?) but more importantly it showed me I couldn’t turn off my brain for 5 minutes for shavasana ( inhale- ‘Did I send that email?’ Exhale- ‘I should submit a CFP for Defcon this year.’).
I could also tell it would be one of the most fulfilling things I had ever done and stuck with it even when I didn’t want to. I now feel at home on the mat and practice yoga 4 or 5 times a week.
Here are a few things that have stuck with me this year:
Yoga taught me that if I am do not control of my life it controls me.
“Jerry, You didn’t breathe during that sun salutation.”
“…or that one.”
“…Are you trying to hold your breath?”
I really thought my teacher was being hard one me for no reason. I was doing what she asked, when she asked and how she asked. I soon came to understand that if I couldn’t pay mindful attention to the one thing that keeps me alive and control it I am not running my life. My life is running me.
Yoga taught me that more strength I have the less power I want.
I work in security and with that comes the need for power and control. We let this run our lives to the point that we have Brazilian Jiu Jitsu meet-ups at our biggest conferences (which I love).
Yoga quickly taught me that all the power in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have strength. On Sunday’s I take an afternoon class with Lisa and she loves to say when we are in Downward Dog “OK Class, we will be resting here for 5 breaths”.
I can bench press 100%+ of my weight multiple times so I thought I should be able to stay in Downward Dog for 60 seconds with no problem. I couldn’t, the 60 year old woman next to me could… and probably could have for 15 minutes.
It took me a few months to start building that strength and at the same time letting go of some of that unneeded power,
Yoga has taught me to disconnect.
I get up at 0415 most mornings and start working and don’t really stop working until I go to bed. I answer emails on vacation. I write code on the weekends. I.ALWAYS.HAVE.MY.PHONE.
…except at Yoga class. It is the only time of the day that I am not sleeping that I don’t check my phone for an hour plus and the world doesn’t end. I need to get a lot better at this.
Yoga has taught me to slow down.
When I first started yoga I loved the high energy workouts and leaving yoga with the feeling of being totally exhausted. Then one day I took a yin class with Megan and realized that taking the time to slow down really makes me feel complete both mentally and physically.
Yoga has taught me the only way to improve your balance is to practice.
When I first I started yoga I could not do the tree pose at my ankle for 10 seconds without falling down. As I practiced over the last year I have gotten better but not perfect. As with most things in life you have to be willing to fail to get better.
If you ever get to LA check out YogaAqua.
Yoga has taught me to find comfort in discomfort.
If you want to be successful in life you can not stop when things get uncomfortable. If you can stop yourself from going into Balasana because your arms are tired when your teacher decides in the middle of the downward dog during the fifth sunsultion is the best time to give the complete oral history of a sanskrit word you didn’t hear you can also send that difficult email, ask for a raise and have that hard discussion.
I found Yoga at the perfect time in my life and I look forward to learning the lessons it will have for me in 2018.