Monday, February 27, 2012

Wanna See Where I Can Put My Leg?

Can I just take a second to brag about the fact that I can do this?

Kirby is not impressed.

I'm here to tell you, friends, that yoga is the shit. A few years ago I could barely touch my toes, and now I can fold myself in half like a damn tea towel. And so, I have decided to present to you, in list form, all the reasons you should stop spending your time however it is you spend it and start practicing yoga.

1. Yoga is whatever you want it to be. If you need to relax and ground yourself, you can do a gentle hatha class that stretches you out in a low-stress way. If you want to sweat until you think you will die, you can do an ashtanga class. Whenever my muscles are tense and painful, instead of getting a massage (I'm an actor, people, I can't afford that crap) I do some yoga. Fixes me asap.

2. It can be a killer work out. A lot of people think yoga is all about bending and stretching and feeling your feelings. Well, it is. (And that's important. Flexibility is imperative to healthy joints and injury prevention, and very few other forms of exercise practiced in the Western world work on flexibility. And feelings are, you know, feelings.) But yoga also builds some hardcore muscles. Look up picture of arm balances. Look up pictures of  utkatasana (awkward chair pose). These are very difficult poses that will leave your muscles shaking, and then sculpt them into things of beauty. Although, of course, external beauty is not the point of yoga, which brings us to...

3. Yoga (really, any kind of exercise) can give you such a great appreciation for your body. When I see my body get stronger and more flexible over time, I start to love it for what it can do, not for how it looks. Cellulite doesn't seem to matter as much when I realize that those same thighs can hold me in utkatasana for minutes at a time. I'm not gonna lie, I definitely enjoy what yoga has done for my booty's appearance, but practicing yoga has made me love my body way more than dieting, make up, and push-up bras ever could. 

4. Yoga can inspire you to eat healthier. First off, yogis tend to be a pretty health-conscious bunch, so if you hang around them enough, some of that is bound to rub off. Yoga really teaches you to be aware of your body, and listen to what it's telling you and what it needs. Once I mastered that in class, I started to listen more to what my body was telling me to eat. I already ate pretty healthily, but now I'm better at determining if my body needs protein, or veggies, or water. Instead of eating the same thing every day, I pay attention to how I feel and what my body's craving. Alternately, it's helped me to be much more conscientious about what I shouldn't eat. In the past, if I turned down junk food, it was because it was fattening. Now, I think, "If I eat four slices of pizza right now, my stomach is going to be killing me in about 30 minutes". I still eat pizza, obviously (and ice cream and beer and occasionally copious amounts of Sour Patch Kids), but my reasons for eating these things in moderation is how they will make me feel, not how they will make me look.

5. Not only does yoga bleed over into other aspects of your physical health, but it absolutely transcends the mat and moves into your psyche. Did you know that the entire point of yoga is to be able to sit in lotus pose and meditate? All the other poses are designed to limber up your body to be able to sit in that pose for hours on end. There are countless bits of wisdom that have arisen from this ancient art, but this piece is probably my favorite. When you're holding a difficult pose, the body's tendency is to tighten up, to strain against it, to fight the effort going into it. This engages more muscle, making the pose even harder, and actually blocking you from going deeper into it. Some people try to counter this by distracting themselves, thinking about anything but the discomfort they are in. Only when you acknowledge the pose with full consciousness - how difficult it is, how your muscles are burning and stretching - are you able to deepen the pose with your breath, and ease further into it (and hold it for longer) than you ever could have thought. And then, once you get out of the pose, the discomfort is almost gone. There's a lingering soreness, but within days you are stronger than you were before. And you know what? LIFE IS THE SAME FREAKING WAY! So often, when we're going through something awful, we fight with everything we can against the bad feelings we have. We do anything to avoid feeling them. Or, we pretend we aren't feeling them at all, and distract ourselves, effectually shutting ourselves off of any possibility of growth. BUT, if we allow ourselves to feel angry, sad, hurt, frightened, whatever, and force ourselves to keep on going through the pain, we come out stronger on the other side. Not only that, but by really experiencing the pain and finding a way to make it useful, we understand ourselves better, and are fully healed - and healed faster. Nothing is permanent, not even pain. 

And that is all the hippie-bullshit-psycho-babble I have for you today. To be fair, yoga isn't for everyone. If you've tried it and didn't like it, I'm not going to tie you down and om at you until you are crying in child's pose. I just think it has some really great benefits, and I think it's worth checking out. And on that note, I bid you all adieu. Namaste, bitches.

Side note: I can't really put my leg anywhere cool. I just stole that line from Shit Yogis Say. Also, I thought that title would trick more people into reading this post.


  1. That f-ing rocks Katie!!!! You are an inspiration!

  2. I absolutely agree on every single point :) I also do Ashtanga and oh man is it a workout, but I love it for that very reason. Scorpion is the pose I look to for inspiration in terms of what yoga can do for you in the long run. I mean, that takes some serious muscles, concentration, and balance.

    1. Ah I dream of being able to do scorpion! Such a gorgeous pose.