For my New Year’s resolution last year, my cynical ass decided I was going to get in shape.
And for some reason, I thought yoga was going to be the exercise I would finally stick with.
I'm not sure why I thought I was a good candidate for yoga.
I’m not bendy, I don’t believe in juice cleanses or toxins, my preferred form of exercise is soccer (because I get to shove people) and I had no desire to get in touch with my chakras, whatever those were.
Yet here I am, a year later, in some kind of “workout routine” where I go three times a week.
And I like it. Yoga has genuinely changed my life (and my abs) and I have learned many new things.
Here are a few of them:
Yoga is absolutely the best exercise for a New Year’s resolution
So you've decided to get in shape in the middle of winter.
Which sounds better: Going into a hot room and blissfully thawing from the perpetual outdoor/office cold for an hour, or puzzling over how many layers to put on and how to shed them without losing valuable body parts while you go run outside?
I'll let you think about that one for a bit.
Exercising makes being healthy so much easier.
For me, dessert is the most important meal of the day.
But after an hour of sweating in a hot room, fatty foods are the last thing I want.
Turns out it’s not just me: A study in the journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a regular yoga practice helps people eat mindfully, leading to lower rates of obesity over a 10-year period.
I also sleep better after working out, which is huge for a night owl like me.
I haven’t reached for the melatonin since I started.
All straight single dudes should do yoga.
In addition to the obvious physical and mental benefits, you will be in a room full of girls in yoga pants, with their toned butts in the air. (I don’t know why all yoga girls seem to be incredibly attractive, but they are.)
There generally aren’t many guys in the class, so those that come will not only attract the eyes of aforementioned fit, sweaty ladies but will usually receive lots of “hands-on assists” from the (mostly female) instructors.
Shout out to the hot guy I’m too scared to talk to at my studio.
It is possible to feel good after working out.
I always thought the runner’s high was BS, but it turns out this was just because I hated running.
I always leave the studio feeling like I accomplished something for the day.
Whenever I’m in yoga, it’s an hour that I’m not thinking about my problems in the outside world.
And most days, I really need that.
Yoga has even become my miracle hangover cure -- I actually want to sweat it out.
Trust me, I used to be the one moaning from the couch for bacon.
But somehow, yoga evaporates my headaches of excess.
Sports can still be fun if you’re not competing against someone.
One of my main problems with keeping a workout routine was motivation.
I went to soccer games because I wanted to win, but I couldn’t find the motivation to go for a run because I didn’t want to get faster at something I didn’t like in the first place.
Group fitness classes, like yoga, basically solved all my problems.
My class has a defined time, I’m encouraged and challenged by an instructor and I have a clear goal of being able to master the complex poses.
Force is not the best way to do things.
What you typically think of for strength training -- straining and grunting and all that -- doesn’t necessarily work for yoga.
You can’t force your way into a headstand.
Everything is done with strength, centering and control, and it teaches you to be aware of your body and challenge yourself in ways I never thought possible.
For example, when I do ab work, I actually concentrate on which muscles I’m using and how I’m contracting them.
I know this is probably Exercise 101 for the pros, but I’ve done tens of thousands of crunches in my life, and I hadn’t gotten to this level of consciousness until yoga.
This is one of the many things I’ve learned to apply to my life as well.
Not to sound too crunchy-granola, but yoga does encourage you to think about what really matters in your life, and how to go about getting what you want. I learned to reach, to fall, to accept what is and, when appropriate, to turn upside-down.
Being strong is f*cking awesome.
I didn’t start working out to get thin.
Sure, I wasn’t thrilled with the slight you’re-30-now-and-your-metabolism-hates-you softness in my belly, but I have always had pretty high self-esteem regarding the way I looked.
And yeah, it’s great that now my “can’t breathe” skinny jeans are now just my skinny jeans.
But I also have, like, muscles.
Where previously my arms looked like “deceased baby rabbits” (thanks Dave Barry), they now had that thing I guess people call “tone.”
And, even better, I can use that muscle to do stuff.
Like lift heavy things! And dance longer at concerts! And do headstands!
I’ve even come to appreciate feeling sore, because it means I pushed myself to be even stronger.
And that’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?
When I showed up for my free trial class last year, not knowing a single pose, I didn’t have faith that I would keep at it.
But here I am.
Sure, there are days when laziness rears its ugly head, but I keep my gear in my car and adjust my schedule so it makes sense to go.
It’s also a source of accomplishment: The day I did my first headstand was probably the most excited I’ve been this year (I drove to my friend's house immediately after class to get a video of it).
Moreover, at some point everyone should start caring about their body as an investment in themselves.
I go because it’s good for me. I know that after every class, I will leave the studio happier than when I came in.
And that keeps me going.
Special thanks to the Austin CorePower Yoga team for helping me not feel like idiot in tight pants.