I’ve never been an incredibly fit person. Apart from a few furious yet short lived bursts of exercise obsession when I was younger, physical activity has never really interested me that much.
Sports are even worse. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than having to run around and interact with other people while my sweaty, out of breath attempts to kick a goal or throw a ball are watched by other people.
Maybe it was one too many mortifying PE lessons at school (looking at you, that time I got hit in the face with a dogeball), or maybe it’s the Australian mentality of idolizing sport and centreing all conversations about health and fitness around it that made exercise one of those things that I just didn’t like to do.
When I began to focus more on my health and well being, the subject of exercise arose, and I felt overwhelming with the task of finding an activity that would make my body feel better without having to spend half an hour every day doing something I hated.
My first regular exercise was a daily walk through the park across the road from my house. There was a really long path winding through it leading through a nature reserve, so it was a pretty long walk, and I used the privacy of the big trees in the nature reserve to cry in public and curse the universe for everything that was difficult in my life.
It was pretty satisfying for a week or two, but the effort of having to find clean exercise gear, get dressed, put on sunscreen, find my ipod and just pack a whole bunch of stuff for thirty minutes of fitness just didn’t seem worth it.
And that was when I started experimenting with yoga.
I borrowed my partner’s dirty old army-issued sleeping mat, rolled it out on the living room floor and tried my luck at an intermediate yoga video found on youtube.
I’d had some experience with yoga in the past, doing it once a week during sport at school, so I had some foundation skills but as soon as I started I knew the strength and flexibility I once had was no longer there.
One of the things that I love about yoga is the shift of focus from cardio-based exercises or team sports to an activity that in founded in strength and control. It allows you to test and stretch your own limits, while engaging your muscles and giving your body a slow-burning workout.
And this is what I love so much about yoga. In addition to being able to do it in my own house, in my pyjamas, in an air-conditioned environment, yoga makes me feel strong, and makes me feel proud of the ways in which my body can move and support itself. It gives me a sense of focus and control over my movements which isn’t present in day to day life.
Of course, you can see how easily this mindset links into the emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga. Depending on the intensity of your routine, it’s easy to adjust your yoga practice to just focus on feeling connected to your body and the world around you, or to make sure you are dripping with sweat by the time your work out is over.
Yoga is also great for people of all skill and fitness levels, because there is a yoga video for every body part and experience level and day of the week out there.
Yoga has allowed me to embrace exercise and fitness in a way which isn’t centred around displaying skills, or competition, or trying to fit into a certain image of what a person who exercises should look like.
Yoga has allowed me to embrace exercise as something that can give my mind a break while engaging my body, something that can test the limits of what my body can do for me, something that just makes me feel good.
Is there a particular type of exercise that you love? Let me know all about it in the comments below!