On Re-Starting a Yoga Practice, for the 82nd Time


I started doing yoga again last week. I was still hurting Wednesday from the session I did on Monday.

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off (mostly off, lately) since I rented a VHS yoga tape from Blockbuster the summer I worked in Oklahoma City, which was 1999. (I realize there are at least three things in that sentence my daughter will never understand.) That’s almost 15 years, but it took less than 20 minutes for me to feel like a total beginner again.

It didn’t help that the segment I picked off the On Demand section on the cable box (things she might understand) was labeled beginner but was mostly variations on sun salutations and included things like downward facing dog with one leg in the air, dolphin pose (like down dog but with your forearms on the floor, which I couldn’t even contemplate at that point, let alone attempt) and some sort of weird backward situp where you moved in and out of boat pose, which I can’t even do holding still.

It was a little demoralizing, to say the least. But since I’m all about the lessons these days, it also taught me a few things.

Never trust the skill rating on a video description.

Twice I tried things labeled as easy or beginner and found myself struggling. Part of that was how long it’s been since I’ve had to translate yoga vocab into something my body does (meaning I should probably watch the video before I try to do it) but it was also hard because those routines really were not that easy. If I had known what I was getting into I probably would have tried something else.

floating yogi
Floating yogi by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr.

35 is not 20.

Oh, how this one hurts me. I really want to think of myself as still young and in decent shape, though I’m inching closer to mid-life every day.

Aside from the existential problems with that, there are physical problems. I’m not as flexible as I was back then. I don’t bounce back as easily. I get sore. This has been the hardest beginning of all the beginnings ever.

Practice takes practice.

I shouldn’t expect to be able to touch my toes or put my heels down in down dog right out of the gate. I probably couldn’t do that when I was 20, either.

I need to remember that it’s been a long time and that if I’m patient with myself and my body it will get easier. Right now I need to retrain my body to move and to hold, my brain to focus and to push deeper when I can, my breath not to fail me. There’s a lot more to it than the physical poses. yoga lessons

I’m glad I started doing yoga again, even if it’s kicking my butt right now. I know from years of stopping and starting that it will get easier, but probably never as easy as those cheerful video instructors make it sound.

I know that it will make me feel stronger, more energetic, able to think more clearly, and those are things I desperately need right now.

I changed my word for the year from grow to calm out of desperation — who has time to grow when writing a book, raising a four-year-old, trying to keep a healthy relationship with your spouse, occasionally seeing your friends and keeping up with work obligations? — but calm is rather hard to find in all that, too. It is my hope that yoga can help me with that.

Do you do yoga? Have you had trouble restarting after an absence? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m definitely in the same boat. I did yoga in undergrad and only recently started trying to pick it up again. Whoa has my flexibility gone out of the window! So glad I’m doing it in the privacy of my own home. It’s hard, but I’m glad I started up again. I’ve found that when I do yoga in the morning I notice when I’m holding tension in my body later in the day and can tell myself to relax my neck or my shoulders. Let’s keep it up! 🙂

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