|Bondi Beach Yoga|
Image by Taro Taylor
I put off learning yoga for a long time. I had preconceived ideas about its cost, my level of flexibility, and how it could be of benefit in my daily life.
Many times over the years I've been invited by others to join them and participate in their yoga classes, but I've always offered one of my many rotating excuses. "I'm not flexible," "I have a bad neck," "I don't have a mat," "I can't pay for the class," "My allergies are bothering me, and when I hang my head my nose runs," I'd say. What it all boils down to, no matter what types of excuses I've used, is that I have always been stand-offish about new activities whenever there is any kind of possibility I might look foolish. Because of a stiff shoulder and continuous tension headaches over the past several months, however, I finally considered the possibility that yoga might be a better answer than the ibuprofen tablets I was taking each day - and so far so good!
Thanks to my local yoga studio and the amazing people who work and teach there, I've tucked my excuses neatly into this essay. I will never need to use them, again.
Once I started investigating the costs of classes in my area, I was really astounded at the variety and affordability of yoga classes.
I typed in my zip code and looked into various studios in the area. There are Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Pilates classes all within a 7-mile radius. Prices here range from $15.00 for a drop-in class to around $600.00 for a yearly membership. There seem to be several series deals, as well, like an unlimited week for $25.00. As for the auxiliary costs, some of the studios offered mat rental for $2.00, and others supply mats and other props during the class. Purchasing a mat will cost from $14.00 to $65.00, but I have not purchased a mat, yet. All told, I've attended four classes in the Hatha Yoga tradition for a total investment of $25.00.
To be honest, the "I'm not flexible" excuse is quite true. However, when beginning to practice yoga, a person does not already have to be flexible.
Yoga will help a person become more flexible over time. For example, in my first class, although I could not reach the floor to properly support myself during certain poses, my instructor brought me over some exceptionally handy yoga blocks so I could support and extend my body in the right way. Now that I've finished a fourth class and have a better idea of how my body works, I can complete some of those same poses without blocks. Part of my problems with flexibility were really an unknowing about what I could and could not achieve. I've physically and mentally become more flexible.
Neck and Shoulders
Even though I've had headaches at the start of my second and third yoga classes, by the end of the classes the headaches were subsiding.
Many times my headaches originate because of tension in my neck and shoulders, which then causes my head to hang or jut out in front of my body while I'm working at my desk. During my few yoga classes, I've noticed that when I'm really mindful of my breath and enjoying stillness, I can feel where I need to relax and stretch in order to alleviate some of that neck and shoulder pressure. The more I practice, the more this awareness trickles into my daily routine and I find myself sitting taller and breathing more deeply. The ability to control the tension before it becomes overwhelming has, as a bonus, helped my mood tremendously.
So, contrary to my preconceived notions about yoga, I've learned that beginning a yoga practice requires very minimal expense, even when beginning with excellent teachers. I've also learned that beginning yoga does not require a person to be flexible, but will help a person become flexible over time. Additionally, as I've practiced I've noticed a great improvement in the alleviation of my neck and shoulder tension, which has elevated my overall mood. My only wish is that I hadn't been so stubborn about it for so long.
Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication. First published Jul 7, 2011 by Amy Lynn Hess.