When you read that word, what comes to mind?

When I was younger I thought yoga was for weird, organic, granola-crunchy people who worshiped the earth and Mother Nature. I thought it was for tiny little rich put together women that were too dainty to go to a gym and sweat. I thought of women in a park saying “oooooom” with their legs crossed on their mats. And maybe some of the people who do practice yoga carry some of those characteristics, but I have learned SO much more about the practice and about myself in the past few months.

I can’t pinpoint a time where I was like “Yes! I want to start doing yoga!!” But suddenly I found myself wanting to try it. I had gotten over my childish views of yoga, but I still hadn't fully grasped what it would really be like. I just knew that part of yoga was about relaxation and meditation. I’m not someone who likes to run or go to the gym and get on a treadmill. I’m also intimidated by the strong men and girls with perfect bodies over in the weight section of the gym so that wasn’t an option either. And I definitely didn't want to be one of those weirdos in jeans (it’s a joke) that only uses the machines cause I didn’t know what I was doing. Zumba took off when I wasn't in college but I wasn’t too good at organized “dancing.” So…yoga!

When I finally decided to go and when I finally found someone that I could go with (shout out to you, you know who you are!!), I walked in thinking it was going to be a lot of ‘oooooms’ and slow moving poses that you held for a while and then moved on. I didn't think it was going to be a crazy work out or that I would leave dripping in sweat. I certainly did not think I was going to be sore the next day….or 4. Boy was I wrong!!

My first time at yoga was a MESS!! I hadn't realized how weak I actually was. My muscles were tight, my strength was at an all time low and my poor wrists were not used to holding up my full sized 5’10” body! But amongst all the heavy breathing and flopping to the mat, I realized quickly that I was going to love this practice. I loved that I had a real human being who knew what they were doing there in the room with me that I could ask questions to and that could help align me. I loved that it wasn’t perhaps as rigorous as a gym workout but it was still intense enough to break a sweat and get my heart rate up. But maybe what I loved the most was the acceptance I felt from everyone in the room. I had never felt so comfortable in my own skin and my own strength, however weak it may have been.

I used to think that yoga was for a certain type of person or a certain body type or even a certain age. Over the past three months I have practiced with old and young, big and small, male and female. I have practiced with girls who obviously knew what they were doing and then girls that looked at me to mirror my work. I have learned so much about the whole art of yoga and loved every part of it.

What I didn't really notice coming into this was that in yoga there is a huge focus on breath. You start off the class slow so you can find your breath and your resting heart rate. From there every movement can be cued by breath. You breathe in for cow and breathe out for cat. You slow your breath down in child's pose to regain control after doing rounds of warriors and three legged dogs. At the end (which is everyone’s favorite part, only second to china gel), you lay on your back with your arms out, palms up for Shavasana- the final resting pose. During that time you empty your mind of everything. The overall goal during yoga is to focus on nothing but your breathing because when you focus on that, you really can’t focus on anything else. So while you are in that final resting pose you are supposed to be as still as possible and think about nothing but positivity. That was the hardest part of yoga for me. The poses are tough, the sweat gets in the way, the soreness of my body slows me down, but focusing on nothing but my breath is my biggest challenge.

What some of you might not know is that I have a tattoo on my side that says breathe. I got that tattoo years ago because whenever I would get in my head and start stressing about something I had to remind myself to breathe. I’ve had panic attacks and the only way to stop having a panic attack to focus on your breath. And whenever I was upset my boyfriend would comfort me by telling me that it was going to be ok and to just breathe. There were so many reasons behind the tattoo, and now it feels even more meaningful to me now as I continue to practice yoga.

My goal is to get stronger- physically, mentally and spiritually. Physically I have certainly noticed changes! My legs are starting to look nicer and more defined while my arms…well I found I had this cool muscle called a tricep!! I also have more stamina to work through all the physicality of an hour of yoga without feeling like I was going to die 10 minutes into class. Spiritually I have found myself becoming in tune with who I am. And maybe to some of you that sounds like a bunch of hullabaloo, but it’s the truth. I spend an hour thinking of nothing but the air i'm breathing! If that doesn't give you a better appreciation for life and the One who gave it to you then I don’t know what does! It makes me thankful to have the body that I have. Yoga reminds me how amazing the human body is and just how miraculously it works together to allow us to move. As for mentally, I have gotten a whole new outlook on myself. I feel more confident than ever in my body! Don't get me wrong, it’s not perfect and I am nowhere near as healthy as I should be, but I’m proud. Im proud of myself for trying something new. Im proud of myself for sticking with it and not giving up. And I’m SO happy with the small results that I see that it actually makes me want to do even more with my fitness and well being. It’s going to be a long road before I can give up mac and cheese and pizza, but at least I am active a few times a week when before the most active thing I did was walk from my car and up the stairs to my desk!

When I hear that word now I smile and I get excited because it is one of the first things I have ever done for myself that has actually helped grow. It has made me more aware of who I am and what I can do. It has boosted my self confidence and yet at the same time showed me areas that need improvement. Yoga is an exercise that I actually look forward to and don’t dread. And what makes everything even better is how people support me while I do this. My parents and my boyfriend are so proud of me for doing this and that means the world to me!

So if there is something out there that you have wanted to try but just haven’t found the time yet, DO IT! Budget it out so you can afford it. Schedule your week so that you can fit it in. Stop making excuses and just do it!!! (I am not being paid by Nike to say that…although it would be nice if I was.) It took me 2 years to try something new!! I get the nerves and I get the doubts! But trust me…it will all be worth it in the end! So go “unroll your mat” and just see where that takes you!