Notes from an Out-of-Practice Yogi

Eva Johnson

with Eva Johnson, Karma Yogi at The Grinning Yogi

A month ago, I was able to say I hadn’t done a single yoga practice in five years. Instead, I was a full-time student who rock climbed as much as possible and occasionally salsa danced in all that free time I didn’t have. Rock climbing was my way of staying sane among the craziness of schoolwork. Because it requires so much concentration and problem solving, climbing has been a sport that kindly forces me to be present with myself. It, like yoga, is a practice of connecting the mind and body with intentional movement and breath. Through climbing, I began to appreciate the importance of taking time to bring awareness into my body; and it was through climbing that I became interested in adopting yoga into my lifestyle.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: yoga is f***ing hard. Day one I’m suddenly in twists and balances I never knew existed. My glutes are on fire, my breathing is out of sync, my mind is worried about keeping up, and when I think I’m getting the hang of it, my Downward Dog slowly widens into Splayed-Out Dog because my hands are sweating profusely and sliding forward no matter how hard I press my knuckles down like my instructor tells me to.

I was sore for two days after my first class. I was surprised. I should be strong and flexible - I’m a rock climber! But yoga is not just a practice of the mind and body, it’s a gentle reminder that you’ve got a lot to learn. My instructors continually comment that yoga is a practice of coming to terms with yourself, recognizing your ego, and accepting where you are in that moment. This has been my mantra for the past four weeks.

Like rock climbing, yoga is a practice that ceaselessly involves micro-adjustments. There isn’t a movement nor pose that doesn’t need improvement. Now that I’m seven classes in, I am starting to recognize how of certain poses feel and identify where in my body I need to direct my awareness. For instance, I’ve come to notice I unconsciously protect my neck, my right hip is much tighter than my left, I have a habit of breathing shallowly into my lungs rather than full into my belly, and I hold tension in my left shoulder from a previous climbing strain. These little pieces of information inform how I approach my practice and motivate me to be patient and compassionate with myself.

Aside from the achy muscles, I have happily welcomed yoga into my life. While yoga and climbing have many similarities, yoga challenges me in a way that impacts my entire lifestyle. I catch myself fixing my posture, breathing a little deeper, and randomly going into Cat/Cow during conversations with people. And I gotta say, I’m genuinely proud of myself! I’ve felt my vinyasa progress from labored to easeful, I'm finding alignment in Warrior One and Two (we don't need to talk about Three...), and I mean, my Chaturanga is darn beautiful.

Ready to see what's in store for my second month of practice!