9 Things I Learned from my First Year of Yoga. ~ Rob Pollak

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For the first 33 years of my life, I steadfastly refused to try yoga.

At first, it was because I refused to try anything that fell under the umbrella of general health or fitness. Thankfully, that phase of my life ended after my first 29 years. Then, I had an enlightenment and realized that I’d probably die soon if I didn’t start exercising. I didn’t realize this horrifying fact from any article or person, but I think that as a 30-year-old I just realized that I wasn’t filled with the youthful exuberance that had fueled marathon sessions of watching Real World marathons on MTV.

My impending death got me off the couch, but I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I started running because I was deathly afraid of embarrassing myself at the gym. Years of inactivity meant that I had no idea what to do. I was fat-ish, weak, lazy and sweat like . . . hmmm. I tried to come up with a good analogy here, but I’ve never seen anything else in the world that sweats as furiously and vigorously as I do, so let’s just agree that I sweat a lot.

At first, I was a timid runner. I’d hide out on the treadmills in the back corner of the gym. I’d run a quarter mile then walk a quarter mile. I’d set my speed to 4.6 so I could dust the 94-year-old woman on the treadmill next to me. But over time, my confidence grew and I started to fancy myself a runner. It defined me to some extent, and it made me look incredibly cool:

Over time, running morphed into a more general sense of fitness. I even lifted weights a couple of times. Periodically, I’d walk past the room with the people doing yoga—mostly women, mostly wearing lululemon, mostly incredibly limber. On one hand, I was skeptical and judgmental. I mean, come on, they were lying on the floor half the time. The other half, I’d peer in and they’d basically be standing still. It looked like a joke. On the other hand, they were basically jacked. It wasn’t for me, though, I couldn’t even touch my toes.

Another year passed, and then one day just before my 34th birthday a muscle in my back popped. Exploded would be a more apt description actually. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was literally paralyzed for years and years. When I saw the doctor a few days later, he said that the injury was because my core wasn’t strong enough and that I should try yoga. I laughed. Yeah, okay bro. Have you seen me? I’m a runner:

The next week, I begrudgingly went to yoga class. Immediate obsession.

Here are nine things I learned from my year of yoga:

1. Yoga is really really hard

When you walk past a room full of people and they’re sitting around gently reaching their outstretched arms to one side or the other, it looks really easy. But when I tried it, I was sweating before the class even started. (I know that’s not saying much, but if you don’t like Bikram Yoga, then you really should never attend a class with me. I’m essentially an oversized space heater). A year in, I continue to find every class I attend constantly challenging to me. My arms burn when the class is over. Sitting is hard. Standing is hard. Balancing is hard. Relaxing is hard. Yoga makes everything f*$king hard.

2. But yoga is also really really easy

Because no matter how many classes I’ve taken, no teacher ever pushes you beyond your limit. If you feel tired, they tell you how to rest. If you’re pushing yourself too hard, you take a break. If you can’t touch your toes, you don’t have to. Just get as close as you can. If you can’t balance on your head, don’t even try until you’re ready. Despite what it looks like from the outside, it’s a very inviting environment, and being cool with what you’ve got makes it much easier and less intimidating than it initially seems.

3. The “spiritual” BS is kind of nice.

At first, I loathed all the omms or taking an inventory of my inner self. I was Mr. Cynical about getting in touch with my mind. Then one day I realized it wasn’t so bad. I was more confident. I felt taller. So a little spirituality won’t kill you, and you might just end up liking it.

4. There’s a class for everyone, you just have to find it.

I’ve taken a lot of classes. If you hate a teacher though, you don’t have to go back. There’s something for everyone. And even though I’ve gotten to a point where I’m okay with a little of the spiritual BS, it’s still not my favorite, so I’ve clung to teachers that were more dude-centric and allow for a little more normalcy in the class. My current favorite is YoJo with Anne’s old trainer, Jessa (her website is under construction, I think). I like it so much, I made a video about it:



5. No one really cares what you do.

Maybe everyone is looking at me all the time and judging me for the sweat dripping from my face onto the communal mat that I put back on the shelf after class. Maybe they laugh when I fall down. Maybe they are disgusted when a little bit of my ass hangs out when I do a forward fold. Maybe they avoid danger zones. But if they do, I’m not aware of it. Hell, the instructors sometimes even do something I wouldn’t even do—they put their hand on my sopping sweaty shirt to make an adjustment during class. Sure, they immediately regret doing so, but it’s the thought that counts.

6. If you work at it, you can do cool stuff.

Now, I can totally do a handstand. Suck it, haters.

7. You start to get muscles in weird places.

For me, it’s been my arms and my abs. Who knew?

8. It made me more comfortable in my own skin.

I’m not even embarrassed to post a picture like this on the internet even though it totally tells the world that I don’t have the same full head of hair that I did back in college:

That’s kind of yoga that I’m doing there, right?

9. It focused me in other areas of my life.

I used to be bad at finishing things I started. Now, after a year of yoga, I’m much better at it. Just this post for example, I wanted to do this all day, and now I’m getting it done. I mean, it did start as a list of 20 things I learned this year. But whatever. It’s also taught me that we are constantly evolving and that you need to take the good with the bad.

This article first appeared on Rob’s blog “Rob Complains about Things.”


Rob Pollak plans to get famous via the internet.  You can follow his journey, writing and drawings at www.robpollak.com, twitter.com/robpollak, or facebook.com/PollakComplains

Ed: Kate B.

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Rob Pollak

Rob Pollak plans to get famous via the internet. You can follow his journey, writing and drawings at Rob Complains About Things, Twitter or Facebook.

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anonymous Jan 10, 2013 9:05am

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anonymous Dec 30, 2012 5:54pm

I know where you're coming from. I didn't begin practicing Yoga (7 months ago) until it was absolutely necessary and I had no other options. Now I don't go a day without it if I can help it. It's the best physical/non-physical workout I've ever done. My goal for this year is to get certified to teach it to others. I know what it's done for me and what it can do for anyone willing to open their mind to something a little different.

anonymous Dec 29, 2012 11:19pm

This is great! It made me laugh and it is very true. Thank you for writing!

    anonymous Dec 30, 2012 7:28am

    You're welcome, Kelly! Thank you for reading!!

anonymous Dec 28, 2012 12:30am

way to go Rob…
and VERY nice teacher love with the video!
(so, you're off about still being kind of a dick…possible you're just kind)

    anonymous Dec 28, 2012 9:25pm

    Thanks, Rebecca! I love making those videos so it was a great way to have some fun and promote a friend. I'm generally kind, but I'm a dick to Jim.

anonymous Dec 27, 2012 5:37pm

Does going public online mean that you're going to post video of your home practice on youtube?

    anonymous Dec 27, 2012 5:46pm

    No, but there are videos of me giving lectures about nutrition … bramacharya stuff …
    I have no desire to do anything but write like hell about yoga–philosophy or asana.

anonymous Dec 26, 2012 7:52pm

January 2, 2013 will mark my one year anniversary of my first class. At 46 years old, I can honestly say I have never felt better. I feel like I have my ADD in check for the first time…..ever. I’m more chill, a nicer person. Less of a dick. And yea, the spirituality BS is cool too.

    anonymous Dec 27, 2012 5:38pm

    Jim, you still seem like a dick to me. (Just kidding!) Your experience sounds similar to mine. Except I guess I'm still kind of a dick.

anonymous Dec 26, 2012 11:57am

Prefer to think of myself as a PILATES-LOVER …
Still do yoga (lol) very frequently, but privately; and fused with pilates.
Ready to go public with it again (but online) …

anonymous Dec 26, 2012 10:33am

Love this! As a yoga-hater, this made me laugh and inspired me to give it another try!

    anonymous Dec 27, 2012 5:38pm

    Awesome! Thanks for reading!

anonymous Dec 26, 2012 10:11am

Honest. I liked this very much.

anonymous Dec 26, 2012 9:42am

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