Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Doing It Together Is Better Than Doing It Alone

No, not THAT!

I've been practicing yoga for a couple years now, off and on. It all started when I joined a weekly morning class at the gym I was going to. I really enjoyed the flexibility and strength I gained during that time, and I also liked the way it seemed to influence my day. I was more focused and positive throughout the morning and well into the afternoon.

When I bought my house, I canceled my gym membership because I wanted to save more money. I still practiced yoga fairly regularly, some weeks more than others, using videos and books I'd purchased. I didn't really ever get into a routine of practice, though. Sometimes weeks would go by without a single down dog or child's pose. I missed the class setting, but I thought that I was at least keeping up my strength and flexibility with the occasional 30 minute routine of twists, inversions and sun salutations. I was sorely mistaken.

I rejoined the gym in November, thanks to a new benefit that my company is providing: free membership! I've mostly been sticking to afternoon workouts, but the last couple of weeks I've been trying to get my workouts in the morning. Yesterday, I decided I'd give that morning yoga class a try. How hard could it be? I'd been practicing, right?


What I was doing was not practice. In fact it was so much less than practice that today I can barely move without wincing with soreness. It turns out that when there are others around, including a live instructor encouraging me to "reach a little further" or "hold this pose for just a few more breaths" I actually push harder and challenge myself more. Thus the sore body. The thing is I'm actually more motivated by the challenge of the class than I was by the seeming simplicity of my videos and illustrated sequences of poses.

That class encouraged me to try harder during my home practice, but it also reminded me that sometimes a group atmosphere is more motivating. Watching others push themselves makes me want to push myself, too. Seeing older women move with more agility motivates me to keep practicing. Having a teacher tell me it's OK to use props and adjust poses to my own level of flexibility reminds me that I need to listen to my body. Sometimes, being part of a group makes you want to do better, even when you're alone.

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