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It’s not super groundbreaking to say that, as a young woman, I have a somewhat strange relationship to fitness. Social media’s toxic impact on body image and how it inherently ties into unhealthy workout habits should come as no shock. But even knowing of these effects does not totally combat them.

This past summer, I felt like I was in a standstill—literally. I couldn’t motivate to go to the gym, and I gave myself a hard time for my inactivity (even though I was working at a camp full-time, and was certainly getting my steps in during the day). Despite wanting so badly to exercise, I felt paralyzed, scared of doing it wrong or not doing enough. I relied so heavily on sports teams throughout high school that I barely knew how to design my own workout. The gym is such an intimidating space, and the last thing I wanted was to fall short of my own high expectations.

I expressed my anxieties to a coworker and friend, who encouraged me to try yoga with her. In her basement, before anyone else in the house was awake, we rolled out the mats, retrieved some blocks, and got to work. The flow class lasted thirty minutes; it incorporated strength, balance, flexibility, and breathing skills, all of which pushed me in some ways and comforted me in others. I was tired, sure, but also mentally rejuvenated. Through yoga, I found myself excited about movement again, and working out began to feel less scary, more attainable.

I’m not a yoga guru by any means, but one of the beautiful things about yoga is its capacity for modifications. Something doesn’t feel great? Adjust or add a block. Not sure how to do an advanced pose? Here’s a less intense version to get you started. There are so many different options, levels, and styles that let you personalize your practice in a way that makes sense for you, wherever you are on your fitness journey. Classes are extremely accessible, with so many in-person and online (YouTube, Peloton app, etc.) options of varying lengths and focuses. If fitness is something you struggle with, you’re certainly not alone. Finding your mode of mentally healthy movement is a challenge, one I certainly struggled with, but trust me, yoga is a great way to start that search process. Namaste :)

Sophie is a first year from Washington, D.C. intending to major in Cognitive Science at UVA. She loves reading and writing, reality TV (especially Love Island UK), and listening to all different kinds of music… typically while singing along very poorly :)