Here’s a secret people don’t always like to share- your relationship with yoga will be just like your relationship with another person. There are ups and downs. You’ll have a honeymoon phase, and then a fight, and then you might break up, but usually things work out in the end.
When you first “meet” yoga, it’s a lot like meeting another person. Your first impression might not be completely accurate, and you might even dislike them. Just like a new person might seem too loud, or too confident, or too anything, yoga might come across as “too hard” or “too girly”. But if you decide to give things a shot and really get to know the practice, you might realize that you were too quick to judge. While the idea you had in your head of yoga might have been calmly meditating for an hour and doing some moves like the groups of elderly tai-chi practitioners you see in the park do, you might be surprised to find the intensity and heat you love in a good workout exists in a power vinyasa class. Or maybe you’re worried that you’re not going to be flexible enough, but discover in yin class that yoga’s postures can be made accessible for nearly every body with enough modifications and props.
Once you’ve seen the true colors of yoga, you might just fall in love. At first, things might be going great- you’ll leave every class grinning ear to ear, already planning your next session. Maybe you start to make it your whole life, heading straight from work to the studio, or popping in for the six AM class before your commute. Before you know it, your friends are teasing you about being a “yoga master” and your instagram feed is blown up with pretzel-y pictures of your favorite yoga teachers. Everything is going great, why didn’t you do this sooner?
And then, you have an off class. At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal- everyone has off days, right? Maybe the teacher was off their game that day, or you were too sore from yesterday to really enjoy the practice. It just seems like a blip in the relationship, a little squabble you’ll forget about the next day, but then you find yourself dreading time with your mat. Instead of hopping in the car after work excited to get to the studio, you find yourself lingering in the office, and then heading home for some quality time with Netflix. Your mat just isn’t calling to you like it was before, and you don’t know why.
You’ve hit the walls most yogis hit in their journeys- the end of the honeymoon phase where the magic has worn off and it doesn’t seem worth as much of your attention or time anymore. You might even take some time off, ignoring the emails from the studio warning you your membership’s almost up and letting your mat collect some dust. This is normal. Usually life gets in the way somehow, and we lose contact with that special feeling we get after we practice. It becomes more difficult to prioritize time for your practice, and the longer you go without yoga, the easier it is to forget how good it can make you feel.
Usually, though, you’ll come back around and end up back in class. It’s that first class back where you find yourself lying in pure bliss in savasana, thinking to yourself, “How could I ever stop doing this?”
And before you know it, the relationship is even stronger than before. No longer is it a puppy-dog crush with almost childlike excitement. It’s a dedication, a commitment. A fulfilling relationship that gives as much as it takes. Your mat becomes your closest confidant, the place you go when you’re hurting or lost or excited. Your practice takes on a new depth, going far beyond the physical asana, and begins to perforate every aspect of your life. You find yourself practicing non-violence (which you now know goes far beyond not hitting) at work, meditating on BART during your commute, and purging your closet of unnecessary belongings. Your idea of a fun weekend involves a morning flow at the studio, where you’ll see all your best friends, and maybe brunch after. A crazy Friday night involves a vinyasa class with a particularly funny teacher and good music taste. You start seeking ways to support what you’ve cultivated in class, whether that means eating healthier or starting a journal of self-study.
It’s here that you’ve settled into the relationship of a lifetime. It’ll be constantly evolving, constantly changing, and that’s okay. Some days, you might skip class altogether because it sounds like the last thing you want to even think of, and the next morning you’ll wake up craving some chaturangas. You might go through weeks where all you’ll want to do is yin, and then some other weeks where you’re all about crazy arm balances.
The beautiful thing about having yoga as your partner is that it grows with you, adapting to your needs. You’ll grow old together, you’ll change your interests together. Yoga will carry you through sickness and in health, helping you deal with injuries and pushing you to grow stronger when you’re ready. It’ll be there for you outside the physical asana, offering you a better understand of yourself and others. And as long as you stay committed to yoga, it’ll be there for you, no matter who you are.
The best part is, however, just like a dedicated relationship, you don’t have to spend every waking moment with them for it to be an important aspect of your life. You might only be able to squeeze in two or three classes a week, or develop a home practice without sharing with others your interest. But it’s still there- a solid rock in your life that grounds you and keeps you centered. It’s just a part of your life now, something that shapes who you are and makes you a better person.