Though I like to think of myself as an adventurous and free-spirited person, I do not live a healthy enough lifestyle to make physical, outdoor activities relaxing to me. For example, I love hiking and kayaking, but I tire easily from these activities because I am in poor shape. I don’t mind exercise, but I do not push myself enough when I work out on my own. I also struggle with finding a balance between a healthy diet and the joys of baked goods. When my eating and exercise habits hinder my ability to physically participate in activities that I love, I can get very emotional and discouraged. I have too-often looked in the mirror with a frown instead of a smile. These negative views of my physical appearance and condition typically influence my mental health as well, making it hard to find motivation to exercise, and thus creating a dangerous cycle of unhealthy habits and emotions. I had always liked the idea of doing yoga, but did not know where to start. I thought of myself as flexible, but it turned out that my college years of stress eating and never sleeping took quite a toll on my body’s ability to stretch and hold my own weight in various poses. Nevertheless, I bought a yoga mat and told myself I would learn yoga for the sake of my mental and physical health.
Like most public workout classes, the local yoga class was not one that I wanted to attend. The thought of squeezing my love handles into tight yoga pants and a tank top that exposed my flabby arms and bulging gut to go awkwardly balance myself on a mat much-too-close to a group of strangers was, for some odd reason, not appealing. That’s when I saw a friend post about Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube channel for those who wanted to practice yoga anytime, anywhere. As a college student, Adriene’s channel was the perfect way for me to learn yoga on my own time and in the privacy of my own apartment. I read up on all the benefits of yoga, mental and physical, and was excited to get into the practice. Initially, I wanted to learn yoga in order to 1) use it as a stress-relieving coping mechanism during times of anxiety and 2) tone my body and build muscle. I never could have imagined how much yoga would mean to me after just a few sessions. I started easy, with short videos for morning yoga and bedtime yoga. Adriene’s videos taught me how to breathe, how to really, truly, breathe and notice things about my body that I never had before. As I moved into the various poses, she prompted me to “unclench my jaw” or “set my hips back flush with the mat,” small tasks that made a world of difference. When I did yoga for anxiety and depression, I noticed that I had been holding so much tension in so many areas of my body. As I did videos for yoga for weight-loss, I noticed that I was stronger in certain areas than I thought, and, at the same time, weaker in some areas that I had once been toned in.
Doing yoga changed the way I lived out the rest of my college career. I took more time to pause, notice my surroundings, and breathe during the day. I learned easy moves I could do to relieve tension from my neck or back. I even noticed that running became easier for me. I’m the kind of girl who can’t run even a quarter of a mile without pausing to walk, yet, after a few weeks of yoga, I ran an entire mile on the treadmill like it was nothing. Yoga taught me to regulate my breath, to have confidence, and to put myself first. I now practice yoga to practice self-love. For my entire high school career and most of my collegiate career, I was hard on myself. Very hard. I worked for a 4.0 and did not settle for less. I put work and studying above friends, family, and even my fiance. I certainly did not take much time to consider my health, physical and mental. It was not until an absolute breaking point that I had to reconsider my lifestyle choices. Yoga was one of my first lifestyle choices that I made in order to love myself and better myself in a healthy way.
Adriene’s videos are for yogis of all levels. She makes learning yoga so easy, relaxing, and fun. Check out her channel here.
Whether you’re a college student or a hard-working professional, don’t waste any more time beating yourself up and living a life of self-loathing like I did. Grab a yoga mat today and start a practice of self-love. You’ll notice incredible differences in the way you feel when you wake up, when you go to sleep, and all the moments in between.
Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!