a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Nov, 2020

Can we talk about how much I don’t like yoga?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

In preparation for the long winter ahead I bought a winter weight duvet at Ikea. I am really excited to try it out tonight. I also bought a large plush gnome, just because it made me smile.

Piper and our IKEA gnome

Today I want to write about yoga. Yoga and me, we have a checkered history.

Many moons ago I attended a yoga class in the basement of a convent that’s just around the corner from me (and is now no longer a convent, THAT is how long ago I took classes there). I enjoyed it, for awhile. I liked two things about it (a) the instructor, who was great and (b) the end of the class where we just lay on our backs in corpse pose and focused on our breathing.

One of the things I remember from that class is how surprised I was when the instructor told us to relax our faces while lying on our mats like that, at the end of the class. What a crazy idea, eh? LIKE I CAN RELAX MY FACE MUSCLES. But I immediately realized that I could actually relax my face, and it felt amazing. I couldn’t believe how much tension I actually carried around in my face all day.

I also remember how hard it was to do certain things that I had thought were so easy, like sitting. Seriously, if you sat cross legged and tried to focus on every muscle being in a perfect position and in perfect alignment for many minutes in one go, you’d probably find it hard too.

I quit that class because I hurt my neck. I remember telling the instructor I wasn’t going to come anymore, and she was disappointed. (Apparently I was the class clown, which she enjoyed, although in hindsight I’m really not sure how appropriate it is to have a class clown in a class that is supposed to be silent for the most part.) I never went back there, and I didn’t attempt yoga until a couple of years ago. My work had a deal with the YMCA and my fitness pass included anything I felt like signing up for. I convinced myself that it was time to revisit yoga. I quit at the halfway mark. I quit because I really struggled, and the instructor was the kind who just did the moves at the front of the class and didn’t support newbies like myself. I worried about hurting myself again. And it hurt too much, and I worried about that too. Is yoga supposed to hurt this much? I wasn’t able to relax amid so many properly-attired bendy women, who easily folded themselves into pretzels around me. (And heaven forbid, what if I farted??) So I quit. And I hated that I quit.

It wasn’t until this year, perhaps, bolstered by the pandemic, that I revisited yoga on my own terms. It involved a total mind shift. Perhaps it isn’t yoga at all. In my version of yoga I do only the stretches that make me feel good and none of the ones that make me feel bad. 

It started with a few pushups that I was doing every morning. Stretching my back in child’s pose after each set felt really good, so then I started adding other easy stretches. I eventually got out the old yoga mat and eventually added a few more poses. Suddenly I had something that looked suspiciously like a yoga routine.

My morning stretches now include:

There’s also a pose that I simply call “lying on my face” that I do somewhere in there to give myself a breather. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two others but I can’t think of it now. I just do them. I will never been one of those perfectly bendy people but when I’m done I feel loose and limber, and ready. There is no performance, no worry, just me, waking up my tired limbs every morning in preparation for another day. I don’t know if I’m any stronger, or fitter, or more flexible, but it sure feels good.

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4 Responses to "Can we talk about how much I don’t like yoga?"

1 | Nicole MacPherson

November 2nd, 2020 at 7:05 am

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Hi Andrea! I’ve been a yoga practitioner for 13 years and a teacher for 4, and I can say that your practice sounds really lovely. My thinking has evolved a lot over time and I think yoga is for life, and to support our lives, and therefore we need to do the postures that do just that. Postures that feel good, that serve us in some way by stretching the parts that need stretching. I like the sound of your practice – those are all beautiful, supportive postures. I had a major hip injury in 2019 from running, and changing up my yoga practice to support my hips has been life changing. I think your title is misleading :) you sound like a true yogi, knowing what your body needs.

2 | Sally Dowe Marchand

November 2nd, 2020 at 4:43 pm

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Hi Andrea
I have to say that by accident in looking for something at the start of the pandemic my husband and I discovered yoga. We do it projecting free YouTube sessions on the tv. Yoga with Adriene – Adrien Mishler from Austin Texas. We are so happy that she guides us so carefully through poses. We went from knowing nothing to learning the terms and poses. She always offers alternative poses for those like us who cannot do full crow or wide legged bend with head in the floor. No frustration just daily practices to motivate. Love it!!

3 | Lynn

November 4th, 2020 at 1:48 pm

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I feel the same way you did a few years ago. I’ve tried yoga on and off several times for the last decade and almost every time I quit because everyone around me knows what they are doing and does it easily and seamlessly, while I’m at the back craning my neck around trying to figure out what the hell “warrior pose” means. It’s equally bad if the instructor ignores me and assumes I’ll just figure it all out, or comes and stands literally over me for the entire class making me the glowing centre of attention. UGH.

I guess I need to either try it at home or look for a super beginner class full of other beginners, because it sounds like you’ve found something good in it. I’ll give it some thought.

4 | andrea tomkins

November 19th, 2020 at 3:29 pm

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’ve been thinking a lot about my own relationship to fitness and why this approach works for me. It occurred to me that I’ve always associated exercise with pain. This probably comes from years of bad phys. ed teachers in school. You know, you have to work it/push it until it hurts! But the “no pain no gain” concept is seriously unappealing, so much so that it becomes easy to just give exercise a pass. Now that I’m doing gentler exercises and being a bit kinder to myself, I am more likely to stick with it. Know what I mean?

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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