I Took a Yoga Class and Felt More Stressed
By Farzana Rahman
Early Experiences with Yoga, Breath and Killer Abs
I hated the first yoga class that I went to.
I didn't think this would be the case. My grandfather had practiced yoga back in Bangladesh and we would start our Saturday morning Bengali classes with gentle asana (movement) practices when I was in school.
But the first actual yoga class I went to was a huge disappointment. I had read about how yoga was the ultimate stress buster. More importantly, I had read that it would give me killer abs.
To give some context, it was the mid 2000s, around the time Madonna was doing bendy dance moves in her videos and every interview with Gwyneth Paltrow mentioned her Macrobiotic diet and how she was blissfully stress-free. I had expected to come out of the class feeling worked out and zen. Neither happened. Instead, I found myself stressed out by the incessant reminders to breathe. I was also irritated that fifteen minutes of my allocated workout time was spent lying down.
Over the following years, I tried (unsuccessfully) to go to a few more classes but found myself feeling restless and at times bored.
giving yoga another go
Cut to 15 years later and I’m a yoga convert. I'm not one of those people who live in Lululemon leggins and wear mala beads around my neck but I have tried to incorporated the principles of yoga into my everyday life.
What I found in yoga was a way to use physical activity to reduce stress. Funnily enough, I didn't go back to yoga because I realized I was stressed-out and needed a way to work through this. I went back to a yoga class because I needed to find a class that helped me stretch between intense workouts.
To my surprise, the class was more than stretching. I actually came out feeling more relaxed and upbeat than when I had gone in.
Breathe, Movement and Stress
I’m not sure why yoga resonated with me so much more the second time around. Perhaps I wasn’t as stressed when I was younger. Maybe I had a better teacher. Either way, I found that focusing on physical postures and breathing helped to clear my mind and definitely left me feeling less stressed out.
Yoga, Tai-Chi and Meditation are now pretty mainstream ways of de-stressing but they are by no means the only ways. What they have in common is a focus on breath and movement to help get us out of our heads. Feeling stressed is linked to stressful thoughts, some of which are on an endless loop.
We can try to incorporate these principles in other activities that we do. Whether it’s going for a walk, run, swim or dancing, the key is to start focusing on parts of ourselves that are not just our thoughts.
Even if I don't have time to practice asanas (movement) I try to reconnect with my breath or focus on a physical activity, even if it's as simple going for a walk.
Turns out Madonna and Gwynth Paltrow were onto a winner.