For the gaggle of walkers towing mats on their backs, there are more reasons than yoga’s documented health benefits.
I think of these as the secrets of the frequent yoga-goer.
1. We all want to be guided.
In our chaotic and often overtaxed lives, we crave guidance. We make decisions all day—and often challenging ones—about our businesses, how to raise our kids or be better partners and more. Then we enter yoga class. We attempt to leave the day behind.
There are orders and commands; yet here they are different.
“Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.”
Every part of my body willingly accepts instruction. I become a follower, as the façade of knowing the next move, the next decision, the next answer is released. I sense a smile and spaciousness in my forehead, and I welcome being led.
2. The music.
In a well-choreographed class where each tune is appropriately timed for the pose or intricate sequence, the whole body-mind-spirit integration is felt more intensely. The sensory input from great tunes—many of them typically only heard in class—is a phenomenal addition.
The music wraps my body in joy. It is a complete gift. I move and feel moved. The right selection facilitates my body to relax further, even in savasana, and sometimes I feel a sensation of floating. After class, I may find myself inquiring about the playlist or a specific song; if it feeds my soul that much, I have to have it.
The sweat, emotion and intimacy of a well-cued, musically choreographed class is like sharing an intimate concert by my favorite artists with close, like-minded friends. Of course, I leave glowing!
In many classes teachers give asana adjustments to help us deepen in the postures. When done well, these are some of the most ahhhh-inducing moments. Suddenly finding core muscles that were unengaged or making a minor foot adjustment allows us to sink into those hips a bit more. From even minor tweaks there can be a great sense of ease, expansion and simple release. This human touch from a place of compassion and trust makes a huge difference in how I leave class and the level of connection I feel to others and myself. It’s the difference between a good and a great class,with a high reading on the “bliss scale” and a teacher I will return to.
In many of our lives, the majority of our day is spent interacting with inanimate objects. Personally, there have been days when the only physical touch I received was the adjustment I had in a yoga class; this can leave me feeling less than human, and definitely far from the yogic idea of “divine” in physical form. There are often moments I want to purposely do a pose poorly just to be corrected; it’s like my way of screaming out, “I need you to acknowledge my physical self, please!” I don’t think I’ve actually done this, as my ego likely takes over—and there is often partner work in classes. (Hurray, saved!)
4. The oms.
I get a lot out of the oms, and maybe you do too.
There’s not a lot of chanting or singing in my daily routine, and I realize I gravitate to classes where there are oms and people willing to send out their voice! Where else is it okay to feel goofy about this stuff, and everyone else is also participating? And wow, it’s actually fun to use our voice in another way than talking, sharing information or trying to have someone agree or empathize with us.
Oms are so much more amazing when there are both male and female voices in class and the vibration continues to resonate after the silence. They’re a great connector and bliss addition, and I definitely walk out feeling more buoyant.
5. The People.
My tribe are the ones typically found in yoga class. They’re the ones who spend money on yoga workshops and retreats. Often, they’re “seekers”. I dig seekers. I like intellectually curious people who like to sweat, but also want to know more. The tip of the visible iceberg is the physical practice; and yoga people know there is so much more.
At some point the work at our day job can become rote; but we still want to learn. Learning about yoga, meditation, and meridian points in Yin Yoga can be fascinating—a whole new world to discover.
6. The paraphernalia.
Those who go to yoga regularly likely invest in “yoga things.” And these things are cool. Yep, I said it. I love yoga paraphernalia! And likely you do too.
I have some yoga jewelry (Ganesh is keeping me safe around my neck.) Some might have an om or deity symbol or crystals to activate chakras. Some might even post a quote on Facebook from their morning Yogi tea bag. (Yes, I am guilty.) We have chosen to imbue these things with special significance such as “improved relationships,” “love,” “romance” or “letting go,” or they were marketed as such, so we agree they carry this value.
Many yoga studios have a small section of items for sale. Yes, I go for the class, but the yoga-item-browse is a side benefit. A purchase makes me feel like I’m investing in my physical-mental-spiritual self. And I happen to like this kind of hippy stuff, regardless of the marketing. (No judgment please.)
Aside from jewelry, clothing is our primary adornment. I’ve assembled a growing stash of yoga clothes—some of which I may not loan out because I love them (how un-yoga-like.) Others likely feel similarly about their [insert brand preference or specific top, pants, water bottle, headband, etc.]
Yoga clothes make us look slim and fit. Added bonus: I often feel sexy because the fabric is comfortable and well-designed. The I-am-so-sexy-in-my flowy-but-supported, busting-out-yet-flattering top and slimming pants (no ego involved) quickly disintegrate after a heated yoga class—me and my so-sexy-self-wearing-yoga-clothes are now sweat-drenched and I have swamp-ass. Sigh. But, everyone else has one too, so I’m in good company.
With all this wear and tear, I of course need more yoga clothes! Or better still, the après-yoga outfit. Yesssssss. Of course this hoopla can get out of control; humans are some funny beings. But these socio-cultural experiences, symbols and rituals are fascinating factors that draw me in. And it’s nice to feel I’m among my tribe, sporting recognized and accepted symbols.
Let’s go get our sweat on! It does the body, mind and spirit good.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Apprentice: Lauren Savory / Editor: Catherine Monkman