Why I Yoga / by lee tilghman

"Yoga is really trying to liberate us from ... shame about our bodies. To love your body is a very important thing -- I think the health of your mind depends on your being able to love your body."

Rodney Yee

Oh, yoga. My love for thee goes far and wide.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for 12 years. I remember taking my first yoga class in Connecticut at the ripe age of 12. I was immediately in love with it. The physical and mental aspects really had a profound effect on me.

Yoga makes me feel at ease with where I am. In a world that prides itself on moving at such lightning speeds, yoga gives me an opportunity to slow down and get out of my head. Spending 75 minutes on that 72"x24" mat moves me in ways no other workouts do. 

Yoga is a good way to spend my time. After moving across the country by myself earlier this year from New York City to Los Angeles, I found myself turning to yoga to feel grounded, focused, and for the community aspect as well.

However, I didn't always feel this way! I remember being incredibly intimidated entering a yoga class. If I was returning to the mat after taking a few months off, those first 3-5 classes were not easy, and definitely rough. I would get frustrated sometimes, or feel really emotional in a pose, likeI just couldn't do it. My thoughts would run rapid. But slowly, I would come to center, and over time and with mighty discipline, I would begin to notice slight changes in the way my body moved; becoming more graceful, long and light. And those poses would go deeper, and I would go, "ha! there it is..."

We live in a world that makes its money off making people feel badly about themselves. Once you become aware of this, you will see it all over the place - on billboards, TV ads, on the radio, in magazines. Whether it's an eyebrow pencil or a tummy tuck, we (especially women) are being told almost 24 hours a day, that we are not good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough. Well, I am here, and yoga is here, to tell you that you are enough. 

"Don't just do something - sit there!"

-Unknown

 

Yoga challenges society's ideology that you mustn't be content with your body and spend money to fix it. Practicing yoga regularly allows you to really explore the depths of your body through breath and movement. You may find that you might start loving the curve of your stomach, the knobby toes of your feet, the clavicle that opens your heart up to your sky. Yoga did that for me. It teaches me to re-learn how to love myself again. 

The cool thing about yoga is that your practice is always changing. You grow and change with your practice. Your practice can and will surprise you, the more time you spend on your mat. Your mind will tell you that you can't do something. But the philosophy of steady breath with yoga allows you to surprise yourself, constantly.

If you try a yoga class and you don't like it, don't be deterred. There are thousands of different teachers, studios, and types of yoga to try. Can't afford a membership? Try practicing at home with a simple youtube video like this one. Try doing yoga at different times of day, as well. Some people like doing it first thing in the morning, others prefer doing it late at night before bed. It's really a personal thing, so don't give up just because you took one class and it wasn't the right fit- give it a few tries until something sticks!

Your mat is your sanctuary. Bring it with you wherever you go. Practice all you can, every single day, even if that means taking a few deep breaths while washing dishes and tightening your core, or practicing your handstand 4 minutes a day. Every little bit counts. 

The more yoga I do, the less I spend in "regular people" clothing, and the more I spend in yoga clothing. I find myself laying out my yoga clothes each night before I go to bed, so that I can just hop out of bed, put them on and head out the door without a second thought. This gives me no excuse for hitting the snooze button!

When doing yoga, it's really important to wear your most comfortable, lightweight clothing to allow you to fully get into each posture. I find that loose clothing tends to get in the way of even the most simple of postures, like down dog.

That said, I like to wear clothes that are 'second skins'. I prefer wearing leggings over shorts. I practice hot vinyasa flow, so it gets sweaty. Leggings allow me to get into tricky poses (such as crow) since my skin can get too slippery. Also, I love wearing all black sillouhettes during practice as it kind of makes me feel like a ninja warrior goddess. 

I recently came across these Adidas Keyhole Leggings, pictured above. The material is so soft, it feels like you're just wearing a second skin. They are the perfect amount of tightness; during practice I can see when my leg muscles are engages. The hook around the heel wraps around my entire foot, making me feel like a ballerina and giving me the feel of elongated legs. They're also extremely versatile- I can go to yoga and then run errands in them.

On top, I usually practice in either a sports bra or a crop top. I like to bare my midriff during practice as it reminds me to engage my core at all times. One of my the crop tops that I've been super into recently is this Adidas Keyhole Long Sleeve Crop. This top is perfect for those days when it's a bit chillier in class, or if I'm going to be practicing outside. The material is wicked, so it absorbs all the sweat during your workout. This comes in handy as I tend to get sweaty in yoga and my HIIT. 

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The shoes pictured above are the Adidas Ultra Boost shoe. They are super lightweight (weighing in at 9.3 ounces!) They are super cushioned and comfortable.

To close this post, I want to share with you a very powerful quote that my yoga teacher shared with me today, and it's about wonder. It's from the book, 

"There is a feeling we all know — a mixture of surprise and delight, caused by perceiving something marvelous, and we want to stay there, drink it in, and know more. It’s called wonder, and the body responds — we say Ah and Oooh and Mmmm, or our hair stands on end, tears come, or we laugh. 

In the Yoga of emotion, wonder is one of the essential ways of tasting life. The Sanskrit word for wonder is adbhuta (“extraordinary, super-natural, wonderful, marvelous, surprise”). Adbhuta is a great gift to meditation practice because when we are in it, time stops and we are touched by the intrinsic magic of life. All our senses open up to welcome contact with essence. We dissolve in wonder. The mind goes silent in awe." - The Radiance Sutras