How I Went from Hating to Loving Yoga

My whole teen/young adult life, I’ve been surrounded by people who love yoga and preach the magic of how it makes them feel and the wonders it’s done for their mental health and body. All over my social media, yogis like to remind me everyday of how flexible they are because of yoga and how “at peace” they are with the world because of their practice. I never really bought into the whole idea of magical life-changing yoga and every time I tried to get myself to try a class, I ended up hating it. So how did I go from hating yoga and being so skeptical of its benefits to being that person that tries to convince everyone else to join in? It all came down to personalizing the experience and making it right for me.

My experiences with yoga before this year were limited to a few high school classes in an uncomfortable sweaty studio where I did not enjoy myself at all. From then on I tried a few yoga classes here and there, and still didn’t understand the hype. I never believed in the spiritual aspects of yoga, the meditation or the whole “energy flow” thing. I always thought yoga was slow and repetitive and never felt that it was intense enough as a workout for me. In addition, I was never really flexible and I always compared myself to other people in the classes thinking about how I am stiff as a board and the other girls looked like acrobats with the ways they moved.

Somehow, I convinced myself to give yoga another go, and made it my New Year’s Resolution to try going to a yoga class at least once a week. Now I’m hooked – and I think I’ve figured out the key to getting the most out of yoga and making it an awesome and enjoyable activity for yourself.

The best way to do yoga is the way you feel the most comfortable doing it. Some of my friends like to do their own practice at home choosing the poses and flows that work the best for them and their bodies, while I on the other hand, would rather be in a class setting where everyone else is doing the same exercise and I can peak at the instructor or other people to see if I’m doing things correctly. The class setting also offers me more motivation to push harder because knowing myself, I would just cut the practice short and slack off if I was doing yoga on my own. 

There are several different types of yoga to do. Some are the slower and more meditative practices which involve a lot of stretching and are great for boosting mindfulness and relaxation, and others involve the more challenging power & flow practices that are more intense workouts focused on building muscle, balance and strength. The important thing is to find the right yoga that suits your body’s cravings! If you’re having a long exhausting day, some slow stretching with yoga might just be the best way to chill out. If you’re in the mood to workout and feel sore the next day, there’s yoga for that too. I quickly realized after starting power & flow yoga classes that yoga can be a very challenging workout and (for me at least) can easily replace a regular upper body/core strength workout. 

Yoga instructors can really have an effect on how much I enjoy a yoga class too. Even though I generally enjoy all the classes and practices I do, some classes I enjoy more than others simply based on the instructor teaching them. Yoga is an interpretive practice, so each yoga teacher focusses on their own favorite poses, stretches, and flows. If you’re trying to get into yoga, it’s important to try classes or flows taught by different instructors in order to really get a sense of whether you’re liking the practice itself, or just the teachers’ interpretation of it.

Finally, in picking up yoga as a regular part of my life, I’ve learned that a majority of what makes the practice fun is the mindset I carry into each practice. Yoga is my time to relax, hang out with friends, and is a good lighter workout in between days of heavy lifting. I’ve also grown to be more mindful to not compare my own flexibility, balance or general yoga skills to those around me as that can really wreck the experience. There will always be someone who is more flexible or stronger than you in the class, the important thing is to focus on your own improvements over time and making sure you don’t push your body over its limit. A lot of yoga instructors will remind you that each pose can be made either easier or more difficult, and it’s up to you to decide which version is best for your body. Yoga should always be a challenge, but you should never feel like it’s painful or like you’re injuring yourself.

The best part about yoga is the continuous rise of self-improvement despite the fact that there will always be more challenges to come. In my own life, I’ve noticed a drastic change in my attitude towards trying different kinds of exercise (because I usually stick to the same weight lifting routines), a new hobby that I can invite my friends to join me in, and an increase in my core and upper body strength. I’ve also found that I’m becoming more flexible and I’ve definitely become better at controlling my mind’s focus and clearing my head when it is time for me to relax and just focus on myself.

I feel like almost anyone can fall in love with yoga, if you pick the right practice for you and have the right mindset. The benefits to yoga really are immense, and you don’t have to go to extremes and become that super Zen yogi who always talks about inner-peace. Sometimes you can get the most out of something from just taking only what you want out of it.

If you’re looking to start getting into the practice of yoga, Lululemon hosts free weekly yoga classes on parliament hill every Wednesday at noon between the months of May – August. Grab a mat, a water bottle and a friend and head down to the heart of the nation’s capital for a fun workout to spice up the middle of your week.