If you’re anything like me, you spent your college years not too worried about your body. Most of my physical exercise consisted of a power walk to class only to climb up five flights of stairs so I could arrive right before lecture started, grab my seat in the middle of the class and stifle my heavy breathing from the small marathon I just crushed. My encounters with the gym were few, but valiant; planning to stay for a full work out, running a mile or two on the treadmill, then giving up and sitting in the sauna until my friends were ready to leave. Did my physical fitness really matter to me at the time? No way! I was enjoying college life, why would it matter to me? I was living it up! YOLO!
Now that I am a current college grad and getting older everyday I’ve been informed that I need to make some lifestyle changes, because apparently pulling an all nighter fueled by coffee and red bull (or beer depending on the circumstance) is not exactly fantastic for the body. Intimidated by the gym, I was stuck in a funk of wanting to improve myself but not knowing exactly what would work best for me. My friend, Shelby, finally convinced me to join her to a hot yoga class at The Yoga Studio in Broad Ripple, which I had done a few times in high school, when I was an athlete, and considered it to be relatively easy. One yoga class turned into Shelby and I, plus recruiting our friend Kayla, to sign up for a 30 Day Yoga Challenge.
The point of the challenge is to do thirty yoga classes in thirty days. In order for the challenger to experience a bit of variety, requirements include going at two different times of day, taking a class from at least two different teachers, and going to at least one class at the other Yoga Studio in Carmel. If you complete the challenge, you receive a tshirt plus ten percent off everything for the next year. Mainly in it for the deal, we were armed with a card with thirty little white blank boxes awaiting the initials of instructors, indicating that we completed the class.
My first class was a blur. We timidly took a spot in the back of the room and began the most confusing hour of my life. I’m pretty sure I blacked out in the middle of it. I could have sworn this was easier in high school when my body was five years younger. The instructor lead us through the “flow” of yoga positions in the overly heated box of a room and I swore I was not going to make it. “Down dog,” “Warrior A,” “Prayer twist,” “Half moon,” “Standing Splits,” “Chair pose,” “Three limb chaturanga,” “Pigeon,” “Dragon,” are all words that were called out in no particular order in that class that I had to look around to my neighbors to figure out what in the dickens this instructor was telling me to do. I quickly figured out my favorite part of the entire class, taking Shavasana, which is rightly so known as “corpse pose” because you lay on the mat, arms and legs spread, eyes closed, breathing deep. I took this time to think about how I could have possibly thought this was a good idea and why did I let Shelby talk me into this. Walking out of my first class drenched in sweat and crippling with defeated physically and mentally, Kayla, Shelby, and I discussed how we would possibly make it through this thirty days.
Going to class day after day, something strange started to happen. At the end of class, I felt accomplished and wore my sweat soaked clothes as a badge of pride. With each initial working their way down my card I started to feel stronger, I woke up in the morning in a better mood, I looked forward to my hour of time each day in that small heated box. Gaining confidence in myself, I felt comfortable setting my mat up closer to the front of the room. What started out as feeling like a thing that I signed up for and had to do, began to feel less like a commitment and more like a thing I needed in my life. This sixty minutes of time I cut out for myself each day was my “Allison time.” Did I improve? Yes. Can I do handstands and twist my body like a pretzel? Not even a little. Although, one time I did hold crow pose! For, like, a second, and then I fell forward. But hey, small improvements at a time.
The thirty days ended and the first thing said to me when I turned in my card was, “So we’ll never see you again?” I was a little shocked. Now that I didn’t have this “commitment” would they ever see me again? Of course. Making this lifestyle choice for thirty days has left me addicted to yoga. While I am physically stronger and that is great, my favorite part of yoga is that I can hear my thoughts more clearly, my mind doesn’t seem so messy.
To anyone out there looking to make a change in their lives, I encourage them to give yoga a shot. You don’t have to be a professional yogi to benefit from the classes. Do I regret not taking care of my body in college? Not exactly. Do I wish I had what I’ve received from yoga while I was in college? Of course. From this clarity, I probably would have been less stressed out with the deadlines and hussle and bustle of college life. Even if you don’t want to do yoga or any physical exercise, I urge you to just carve out sixty minutes of your day for you.