The first time I stepped onto a yoga mat, I had no idea what was coming down the pipe for me.
Like most people who start to practice, I thought I was in for some serious stretching. On some level, I knew there were more holistic elements involved, but I had no idea I was about to engage with a practice that would disassemble my world, scatter everything I thought I knew, and slowly guide me into a years-long rebuilding process.
I’ve been teaching yoga now for over 10 years, and I know not everyone who comes to the mat will have this kind of experience, but some definitely will. If you’ve never practiced yoga, or if you practice but know you’re holding back in some ways, go ahead and read to the bottom here and consider yourself warned.
Here are five ways yoga might screw up your life:
1. You’ll become more body sensitive.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gone to see my doctor, completely convinced I was having a stroke, or a heart attack, or that I’d found the beginning of a tumor.
Yoga teaches us to inhabit our bodies and hone our ability to notice. For many people, yoga is the first time they will even become aware of sensations in certain areas of their bodies. With this new awareness comes the noticing of every twinge, bump, and gurgle.
We might also become acutely aware of how the foods we eat are affecting our health and well-being. Overall, this is a good thing! But for some, the nonstop body awareness can get a little intense.
2. You might forget how to be stressed.
I was riding one day in the passenger seat of our family car, with my husband driving and our three kids in the back. He and I were talking, and the car started drifting toward a raised median in the middle of the road. I noticed before my husband, and while most people may have screamed or grabbed the wheel, I calmly said, “Median. Median. Median.” Apparently, my voice lacked urgency and he didn’t know what I was talking about until the car got close enough that he noticed and swerved back into our lane.
Yoga teaches us how to interrupt the stress response and stop living in a state of constant fight-or-flight. I guess I’d developed this skill a little too well. I didn’t even feel panicked, but we need to remember that there are times in life that do call for stress!
3. You may be in for big change.
Many people move through life on autopilot, doing what they do because it’s what they’ve always done. Taking up a regular yoga practice can jump-start a transformation process.
Yoga gives us the tools to get quiet and free up space in the body and mind. In this space, there’s a chance you’ll encounter a new, internal experience and voice—one that has been drowned out by all the noise in our lives. This experience draws us in. We become captivated by it and learn to honor it as our authentic selves.
This is the true aim of yoga, and it is a process you can trust. But while a transformation process can be exhilarating, it can also be a little frightening.
If you find yourself really connecting with the teachings of yoga and experiencing big changes in your body and mind, it might be a good idea to start looking for a therapist to help you navigate a potential transformation.
4. Your relationships may intensify or change.
One incredible thing that happened for me as I developed my practice was that I discovered my own physical strength. As this strength grew, I began to feel more confident in my relationships as well. I found courage to name my desires and speak my mind. I had always been uncomfortable with conflict, but in yoga I realized I had the strength to be open, honest, and vulnerable no matter the intensity that might arise. I lost my anxiety over what people thought of me and traded my need to please for a trust in my own voice.
When we begin to change, the people we’re closest to will have reactions. Some will cheer us on, while others may get uncomfortable when we step out of old roles or behaviors.
Sometimes relationships will change with us, bringing us to a whole new level of trust and intimacy. Other times, we simply have to let the relationship go. This isn’t easy, and can move us into a period of grief. (Again, grab yourself a therapist!)
5. You won’t be able to pretend any more.
Yoga brought me into myself in a way that’s hard to explain. In many ways, I felt like I was waking up and seeing myself and the world in a completely new light. While it was hard and unfamiliar work, it was indescribably powerful and worthwhile.
I left a lot of my old self behind during that initial transformation, and though it was sometimes painful, I moved forward with an authenticity that I continue to honor every day.
I don’t play along to have friends or pretend I’m happy when I’m not. I’m in tune with what I need and I’m not afraid to ask for help. I tell my partner what I think and I’m able to own my part of problems and solutions without shame.
So there you go. Yoga screwed up my life for a while, and I know others who have similar stories.
But in all honesty, I wouldn’t trade the mat for that old, comfortable life. Sometimes it’s still hard, and some days I feel worn. But I feel real. And that’s made it worth every practice.