These days, yoga has a bit of a reputation for being kind of the new “thing.” You know, the new health buzzword that everyone and their mothers seems to be into. Kale had its moment, as did juice cleanses and the Bowflex machine.
But the thing about yoga is that it is by no means new—it’s been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years, but has become extremely popular in the last decade or so as the health movement has gained momentum.
Before its popularity spike, yoga was generally perceived as some wishy-washy hippie thing that required hallucinogenic drugs and a perpetually dreamy state of mind. Whether it was a big push by the existing yoga community or the subtle persuasive power of suburban housewives, yoga burst onto the health scene and bears no signs of leaving anytime soon. With the related booming success of yoga clothing companies like Lululemon and Athleta and the connection powers of social media, yoga is becoming accessible and desirable for all sorts of people. Take Rachel Brathen, a young Swedish yogi who turned her passion for yoga into a life-fulfilling business. Her Instagram account, @yoga_girl, has over 1.5 million followers who stay tuned to her posts about international workshops and large-scale yoga classes, as well as some seriously cool inversion shots. There’s also Laura Sykora (@laurasykora on Instagram), who co-founded Two Fit Moms, a family-focused wellness brand, and AcroVinyasa, a form of aerial partner yoga—and who has 1.1 million Instagram followers and multiple websites.
But despite these advancements in general knowledge and popularity, there is still the stigma that yoga is a world dominated by and belonging to women because it is delicate and easy. But more and more diverse sects of people are discovering the benefits of practicing yoga—for example, high-profile sports teams and athletes like the Philadelphia Eagles and LeBron James, who are helping to change the stereotype. Having high-profile attention brings to light how beneficial yoga is to every part of your body, especially as an athlete. Just as sports teams in the past realized how great ballet is for muscle tone and body control, they are also realizing how awesome yoga is for stretching, strength, and stress relief.
What can I tell you about starting yoga for the first time? Well, here are a few things you can add to your unwritten list of yoga notes:
It’s becoming easier for anyone to try it out and see what yoga is really all about.
But telling you what yoga can do for you won’t make you roll out a mat.
It’s common knowledge that yoga is beneficial; you don’t need me to tell you that.
But I can tell you that it’s worth your time to take an hour, borrow a mat, go to your closest studio, and open yourself up.
Let yourself feel awkward and bend in weird positions you haven’t been in since the last time you played Twister.
Let yourself open your eyes during the Peaceful Warrior pose and peek at what everyone else is doing because you have no idea what the hell Peaceful Warrior even means—and you definitely aren’t feeling the peace.
Let yourself wobble like you’re being pushed over when you’re trying to balance on one foot.
Let yourself fall. Everyone does.
Yoga isn’t about reaching nirvana or twisting your leg over your head, but if that’s your modus operandi, cool. Go for it.
Yoga is about finding your balance, your center, through whatever means are right for you. If finding your balance means going into the studio every morning and perfecting each pose, great. If finding your balance means dashing into class five minutes late because you just felt an impulsive urge to practice that day, awesome. If finding your balance means traveling to Bali and searching out an ancient yogi to teach you, do it. The thing about yoga is that it teaches you to know your body, to know yourself, and to realize finding balance in life is important.