Health | Confessions of a Yogaphobe

I have spent years being rude and cynical about yoga. Years and years. Whenever someone mentions going to a yoga class my top lip will curl and I'll make some snidey comment about how breathing deeply and saying 'om' doesn't count as exercise.

That is until my first yoga class a month a go. Turns out: yoga is tough! I had signed up for my first ever yoga class thanks to the wonderful Get Fit 4 Free programme run by Sweaty Betty which gives you the chance to be taught by fantastic passionate fitness gurus in the Sweaty Betty stores - and all for free! I signed up for Vinyasa Yoga as I thought it might be an interesting thing to try and I thought it might help improve my flexibility ahead of going surfing in Los Angeles at the end of May. Boy oh boy was my first class a shock!

So here are some of the confessions I have after my first month of yoga:

1. I can't help but giggle during yoga: I'm just so bad that I find myself outside of my body laughing at myself. Turns out though...

2. No one judges your ability at yoga! It's not competitive, not even with yourself, it's just about finding the space to exist in your body: to stretch, flex, bend, poise and relax in to your muscles.

3. Yoga is harder if you're a runner. Sorry guys: think running is the be all and end all? Yoga's going to be a shock! As runners we've trained our muscles in very specific, somewhat narrow-minded, ways and yoga forces your body to have a 360 degree view - not great for us runners!

4. Yoga is relaxing and that's pretty enjoyable. I like the point at the end of yoga where my groaning and inflexible muscles are allowed to simply lay there. You might even get a little shoulder massage from your yoga teacher if you're lucky: and yes, that is also pretty nice.

5. I feel more zen after a yoga class. I don't quite think it's the 'om's or the empowering quotes read at the end (sorry still skeptical about those) but yoga forces you to look at every muscle in your body and will it to relax. To encourage it to loosen as you stretch yourself in every direction. In order to push your body further you have to focus on your breathing and the combination means I leave feeling calm and less likely to shout obscenities at taxi drivers trying to kill me on my commute home.

6. I like going to yoga. There. I said it. I like my weekly class, in fact, I love it! It's challenging and it flows in a different rhythms to the rest of my life and the rest of London. Since going to yoga I've also knocked 27 seconds off my pretty solid 5k time taking it below 24 minutes: a barrier I thought was impossible for my body. I'm not sure if it's the result of the yoga: but I'm pretty sure if nothing else the positive affirming spirit of yoga has helped.

So consider this yogaphobe reformed: I'm now a converted yogi. Try it before you laugh at it: it might surprise you.

Tree pose, Isle of Wight


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