How a Month of Beginner’s Yoga Actually Stressed Me Out

How a Month of Beginner’s Yoga Actually Stressed Me Out
Photo: Maridav, Shutterstock

After a little over three weeks of diligently practicing yoga on a daily basis for the Lifehacker Fitness Challenge, I can’t say that I’ve become a dedicated yoga convert. But I will say that it has been less painful than I’d originally expected. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve learned to appreciate how the practice forces me to stay present at least once a day, and I’ve found the leisurely stretches on the mat to be so pleasant that mid-way through any yoga video I find myself looking forward to the cool-down in corpse pose.

I’ve also noticed myself feeling soreness in my arms and legs throughout the week that indicates to me I’m building some semblance of strength. Huge plus! It also tells me that I’m using muscles I don’t normally in my usual workouts, so whether or not I stick with yoga after this fitness challenge, I’m making a mental note to mix it up every once in a while.

But one area that I find myself struggling in is breath. And breathwork is hugely important in yoga, supposedly helping with everything from creating a deeper connection in the body to helping prevent injury. But for me, focusing on the breath causes me to feel like I’m creeping towards hyperventilating. (Read: not at all relaxing.) And it feels like listening to the instructor constantly say “Take a deep breath in…” as we sweep our arms up towards the sky, or twist our shoulders away from our knees, and then waiting for what feels like an eternity to hear her say “And big breath out…” just starts to stress me out. I feel out of sync, and like I’m not doing it right.

I even tried the first two videos the Breath – A 30 Day Yoga Journey series from Adriene Mishler’s (of the mega-popular YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene), and at one point felt like I might pass out from the combination of a deep inhale and a head rush-inducing root to rise arm-sweeping motion.

What all of this makes me realise is that yoga is truly a specific practice. There’s a reason that people have to get certified to become an instructor. You can’t just simply pick it up from a YouTube video. In an ideal world, I’d be able to attend a beginner’s class and ask a teacher for guidance when I felt like I was breathing wrong. I’d also be able to observe fellow classmates and follow their form and breathing pattern. But in a pandemic, it’s either a YouTube video or a Zoom class, and I just have to trust myself and not push through on anything that causes pain or potentially fainting.

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