The first time I did yoga, I absolutely hated it. I loathed my hippie instructor's earrings that were made out of dried fruit; I resented the subtle smell of lavender essential oil that enveloped the studio; and I felt incredibly uncomfortable in all of the physical poses that seemed to come so naturally to everyone else. I didn't return to the mat for a solid year after my first yoga class. Ironically enough, I'm now a yoga teacher who's head over heels for this beautiful, ancient practice. I guess one of the
things no one tells you about doing yoga is that it might come find you when you least expect it — even when you're specifically and strategically trying to hide from it.
Personally, yoga makes me feel more in touch with my body and soul than any other form of exercise I've tried. I, like many people, initially came to yoga seeking a physical transformation of some kind, but it didn't take long for me to realize that the time you spend on your mat is about so much more than aesthetics. The practice teaches you to love yourself fiercely and unconditionally (and yeah, it's a pretty good workout, too).
See, if you can breathe, you can do yoga, and if you ask me, yogis make the world a better place. If you're open to it, this practice can teach you things you never thought you'd want, or even need to learn. It teaches you how to really show up for yourself, day after day — and I bet no one told you
that as you ordered your very first yoga mat on Amazon.
In honor of
National Yoga Month, Elite Daily reached out to a few yoga teachers, who have revealed the seven things no one will tell you about the practice when you first start, but that truly make it so worth it, and that make you keep coming back to the mat again and again.
You Don't Technically "Do" Yoga
Susan Shumsky, a yoga teacher and author of the book "yoga is a state of being — not something you do on a mat in a gym." OK, yes, Exploring Meditation, technically you've done yoga on both a mat and at the gym, but Shumsky's on to something here. "When you are in a state of yoga, you are deeply relaxed, yet alert," she tells Elite Daily over email. "This is called restful alertness, also known in Sanskrit as ' turiya' — beyond waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. This is also described as ' samadhi,' [aka the] evenness of mind and stillness of body."
In other words, while yoga obviously
does consist of physical poses that you move through one at a time, what's more important is the mindset the practice instills in you. Yoga is meant to bring an unmatched sense of calm to your being, and for many people, it's the one opportunity they have in their day for total stillness and tranquility. So, did you "do" your yoga today?
You Might Get Sore (Like, Really Sore)
Kino MacGregor, an author and Ashtanga yoga teacher, knows firsthand the feeling of post-yoga soreness, "and it’s the best feeling ever," she says. MacGregor tells Elite Daily that yoga both stretches and strengthens muscles that you might not normally use, so you can expect to have a few growing pains and aches as you ease into a more regular practice.
And when you start to complain about how much your muscles are aching, don't be surprised if people ask if it's because of "leg day." Just look 'em straight in the eye and say, "Nah, I just hit up my favorite vinyasa class, fam — get with it already."
It Might Feel Overwhelming Sometimes
Sometimes yoga is hard — like,
really hard. As MacGregor points out, you probably see lots of pictures of peaceful-looking yogis, and while the practice is definitely all about finding contentment within your body, mind, and soul, "the reality of getting on your mat often means that you face difficulty and adversity along the way," the yoga teacher tells Elite Daily.
For instance, MacGregor explains, you can expect some of the poses to feel awkward, challenging, and even confrontational at times. But don’t back down when you're faced with these difficulties, she says, because that is
exactly where the biggest possibilities for transformation lie.
No, I don't mean you'll literally become a yoga teacher once you start practicing (but hey, why not?). Rather, according to
Alex Tran, a yoga instructor based in Seattle, Washington, when you practice your asanas regularly, you'll learn what your body needs versus what it wants, making you a professor, of sorts, of your own necessities.
"Listen to [your body]," Tran tells Elite Daily. "It's easy to want to get into a particular pose or to look like a fellow student or instructor. Put all that aside, and let yoga land in your body."
See, the word
"yoga" literally translates to "union," and that union is happening within your very being when you practice. Your breath helps you connect your mind with your body, and with each of these linked movements, you become wiser about how your body works and what it really wants or needs.
You'll Make Lifelong Friends
Jenna Reynolds is a co-owner of
Arrichion Hot Yoga in Charlotte, North Carolina, and she tells me she frequently sees people enter her studio solo, and leave with a brand new companion. "It's not unusual for members of our community to hang out in the studio after class for 30 minutes or more," Reynolds says. "The act of sweating it out together as a group creates a feeling of connection (and in our heated classes, a feeling of 'what the heck did we just put ourselves through?')."
For many people, the yoga studio, whether it's hot or not, becomes a social outlet, as well as the healthiest habit of their day.
You'll Become More "Regular"
According to Claire Jacques, an instructor at
CorePower Yoga, your digestive system will definitely thank you every time you step on the mat for a sequence. "Like with any routine exercise, regular practice will keep you regular," she tells Elite Daily. "In yoga in particular, twisting postures — like revolved crescent lunge and prayer twist — are historically thought to aid in digestion. Twisting from right to left compresses your ascending and descending colon, aka a win-win."
The Advanced Poses Are The Least Interesting Thing About Yoga
When it comes to your yoga practice, perhaps the most important realization of all will be that your ultimate goal of achieving Insta-worthy asanas isn't really that important, nor is it even the most interesting part of the whole experience. "There is no trophy at the end of class for crushing the best arm balance," Katie Bradish, a teacher at
Mountain Town Yoga, tells Elite Daily. "No ribbon for the deepest hanumanasana (split). Your mom will not love you more if your heels reach the ground in down dog. There is not a most flexible yogi discount."
In other words, fancier poses do not necessarily lead to better results. Simple poses, although not as dramatic on your 'Gram feed, can yield just as many benefits as the more difficult asanas. "'Easy' and 'difficult' mean different things things for different bodies," Bradish explains, adding that, if a pose doesn't work for her body, she simply doesn't do it — and that's OK. "That is what yoga is about: observing your body, understanding that you are strung together with your own particular brand of strength and imperfection."
Cultivating a curiosity about those strengths and quirks is what keeps the practice interesting to Bradish, to me, and most likely to you, too — even if you haven't realized it yet.