On
from
pinterest
I Did 30 Days of Yoga and All I Got Was Peace of Mind…Oh Wait
01.26.17

changes-month-man-repeller

I have always hated yoga. For as long as western society and the majority of people I know have embraced it, I have felt like the practice is an assault on my existence and ability to follow orally-commanded instructions. (What does it mean, really, when you’re asked to separate your feet hips’ distance apart, let your knees bang against each other and then in a single, fluid motion, to drop them to the left and pick yourself up using your right elbow to center?)

Granted, I am less flexible than a Barbie doll. At least she can bring her back to tabletop position. When asked to touch my toes, the best I can deliver is a fraught tug at my knees. Once I have taken approximately 473,682,747 steps into a lunge (one single, quite literal step for almost everyone else, for the uninitiated), I can’t technically get out of the position unless a third party physically removes me. But you know what they say — it is when you hate something the most that you also need it the most. (Important note: This is not true for relationships.)

Following the humbling experience of losing a baby in utero and then the more humbling experience of recognizing that no matter how much you want something, sometimes you just can’t control when (or whether) you get it, I resolved to revisit yoga everyday for the month of January for the very simple reason that my mom told me to. When you’re vulnerable, you’re also much more open-minded and thus ready to grasp whatever will hit your palms. For me, that was a set of blocks and a Jade yoga mat.

I hoped I’d develop flexibility that could transcend the boundaries of my body and affect my head, too (a more flexible mind means less rigid thinking, right?). I also anticipated that I’d ultimately give up.

I chose Sky Ting as the studio at which I would practice. It’s nestled just above the Manhattan Bridge on Chrystie Street near Canal and does all the things a good new-age studio should: sells Moon Juice, boasts a clientele that wears Outdoor Voices almost exclusively and has charming signs hung everywhere from the bathroom (“Wipe your hands on your pants!”) to the doorway (“Shoes off, pretty please”). When you walk into the studio itself — a large white, bright box — you’re met by a stuffed giraffe, seemingly watching over your practice from the corner of the room, possibly bragging about the length of his neck, but more likely just standing there as a proof of concept.

The first class was surprisingly satisfying. Coming off an exceptional streak of four months with zero exercise, my hamstrings were more limber than I’d have expected. Granted, my forward fold looked like this:

Leandra Medine Yoga Sky Ting Man Repeller-1

Three weeks later, here it is:

Leandra Medine Yoga Sky Ting Man Repeller-7

That’s been the most important thing about this “challenge.” Yes, I went in wanting flexibility and knowing that I would hate it because I’m so inflexible. I thought I’d take it out on myself the way I always do when I have trouble doing something that the people around me can seemingly do with no effort (DO YOU GET THE METAPHOR?), but what I’m discovering is just the opposite.

Stepping into a lunge is still hard.

Leandra Medine Yoga Sky Ting Man Repeller-2 flip

When the rest of class sits in crow, I lay with my legs stretched out in front of me, palms towards the sky. My internal monologue during moments like this used to sound something like, “Push further, you fucking weakling!”

The mind thrives on patterns. It reacts to experience, stores that feeling and then shoots it back out as a defense mechanism, a means of protection.

This morning, I was crouched into child’s pose, avoiding a headstand, when I caught a new pattern developing. I could feel the energy of the rest of the class’ legs up in the air while mine, folded and heavy, rested shin-first against the ground. “Hey, no sweat, this feels really good,” I observed as my mind wandered. “You’re here to learn how to move your body and you’re going to get there. And even if you don’t, whatever. This feels really good. Isn’t that what matters?”

It was so cool. So new. Is this what the meditators call, “effortless undoing”? Is this how it feels to actually let go?

When I set out to write this story, I wasn’t sure how I’d frame it. Share the challenge? Pit my former self against my now more flexible self? Was the point to share physical progress? Would I explicitly vouch for Sky Ting — a studio I very frankly recommend to anyone who’s not necessarily looking to get outside of themselves, but who cares to stay inside, and learn how to be comfortable there?

I’m not sure, but what’s been really nice to observe is that you don’t actually have to undergo dramatic transformation to feel yourself change. You don’t even have to call it change. Just being is enough.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

Get more Beauty ?
  • EP

    under the manhattan bridge?

  • I’m getting ready to do my own 28-day challenge in February, so this was right on time! I’ve been doing yoga, off and on, for eight years now. I still can’t get into crow pose. Someone recently told me to try it at home with a few pillows right in front of you, that way you’ll be less afraid to fall and really give it your all. Might be a good tactic!

    • That’s how I tried it! Totally fell face-first into those pillows, but I was home alone and it was fine! Even holding crow for a few seconds is a success!

    • Cindy Fried

      The thing with crow is DON’T LOOK DOWN! The head is heavy and it will pull you down. Look forward to a point on the floor a few feet away. You will get there.

    • Kattigans

      There are some great asanas you can practice to start getting ramped up to crow. I find that doing those before attempting crow its a lot easier to get the movement and flow down. Still working on mine, but learning these foundational poses has been so helpful!

  • Anne Dyer

    When I lost my pregnancy I went to yoga for two weeks straight, two times a day. I swear it saved me. 6 years and 2 babies later, I still look back at that time as one of the sweetest of my life.

    • Carrie Asby

      I love your story. Mine is very similar. 6 years ago I was in a very dark space (bad relationship, no money, unemployed). A yoga studio around the corner from where I lived (SF) was donation only, so I started going twice a day. Saved me, too. That period in my life was one of the best lessons ever. Thank you for sharing. OXOXO

    • Leandra Medine

      Thanks for sharing this Anne. People don’t know that I’m exceptionally sensitive to hearing about their loss too, because all I want is to feel like it’s going to be OK — for everyone! — and this provided exactly that

      • Faye

        I have been practicing yoga for years. I even did a teachers training program a couple of years ago. What attracted me to yoga was the promise of flexibility and maybe calmness. What kept me there is this feeling of not having to compete with anyone in the room. This feeling of gently challenging my limits while respecting them. And this is a very valuable lesson to use when you experience loss.

  • Adrianna

    I always made fun of yoga, but wouldn’t admit that I was intimated by it. I tried it after a friend’s recommendation. I had been hit by a car and had a pinched nerve for the next six months – it always felt like the left side of my body was “asleep,” aka stabbed by little pins and needles. I was unemployed. I didn’t have health insurance. I was watching my life savings disappear each month I paid my rent.

    On top of that I was depressed for various reasons, particularly because everyone around me seemed to be growing in their careers whereas I couldn’t get a job interview. I took advantage of an unlimited $20 new student deal at Vida Yoga. I felt incredibly awkward. I still remember the two instructors that were visibly judgemental and impatient. (btw, no longer working at Vida Yoga.) I went to the donation-based Yoga to the People afterwards.

    I still felt the pinched nerve sensations during yoga, but it temporarily went away as I held the twisted poses. I finally got a permanent job after 1.5 years of unemployment. I continued to go to yoga. I didn’t notice the pinched nerve go away.

    • kjrobot

      Good for you. And congrats on your job! I know it’s hard out there and sometimes you don’t know why. Looking for yoga near me now.

    • Jolie

      I know this feeling. I’ve had chronic lower back pain for the past 7 months that just won’t go away, and on top of that, I was unemployed and depressed and broke. Less unemployed and depressed and broke now, still in pain, so I’m wondering if yoga might be a good practice to take up. Barre classes have made my back pain feel better (at least during the class).

      • Adrianna

        I definitely recommend it if you were fine in barre. I first went to a beginners class where it was all very gentle – didn’t break a sweat. And good instructors want you to tell them if you have an injuries or issues.

  • Liss

    This was ridiculously inspiring and just what I needed to hear (including the photos of your fold). Thank you. <3

  • Abby

    I’ve recently taken up a regular yoga practice again after almost a year of no exercise, and MAN I forgot how hard it is! I’m loving every second though, even if I’m completely inflexible.

  • “Just being is enough” is going to be my new yoga mantra. (My previous one was “Hello focus, goodbye zits,” which was aspirational but not very accurate.)

  • Tricia

    This is really lovely, I am so happy to hear that you finding peace in being. Being satisfied, even just a little bit is so satisfying. <3

  • Jennifer

    You did good, kid 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Losing a pregnancy and fertility struggles are what drove me to yoga too! I was looking for strength, balance, flexibility, and peace. Turns out I don’t have the attention span for the meditation component of yoga so meh, on the peace component. But I really enjoy moving my body, the increase in flexibility (I am also quite stiff), and my back has never felt better!

  • Samantha Lee

    More than anything, yoga helps so much with my anxiety. It forces you to be still and just breathe, and often that’s all we need. <3
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  • moonwalkinglady

    I loved this. My forward fold looks identical to yours. It takes me so many steps to go from downward dog to standing at the front of my mat that sometimes I laugh. Yoga: a practice in not taking myself too seriously and welcoming my body’s quirks.

    • Alison

      Yes!!! I laugh a lot to myself, but try to respect the seriousness of others’ practice. It’s a great balance. (I cannot resist a good pun.)

      It’s interesting to think of yoga as the intersection of the spirit, the body, and commerce, and how these three things shape our world.

  • Cordelia

    Good article 🙂 I’m not flexible and/or coordinated at all (my forward fold looks like yours with the bent knees!) but I like yoga because you can do as much as you want to do while still being active and I feel *nice* afterwards. (I do cardio too but it is a different feeling). Yoga has taken me through some good and bad times but I like that I can fall back on it, even when I don’t feel like leaving my living room.

  • Sarah Saladino

    This made me cry! Your journey is brave; I am proud of you.

  • Robyn Corbett

    It seems like because of your experiences you have shifted your focus to being more kind to yourself and you’ve cultivated this into a habit through yoga practice! That’s beautiful 💜

  • Bailey Stark

    I went through a pretty rough year in 2016 and yoga really helped me stay afloat. I hate to sound like a snob but yoga seriously changed my life. Love this story Leandra <3.

  • bonilloa

    Yoga seems like a privileged THIN person, first world hobby. Try being differently bodied and go to a yoga studio. Try not judging yourself when you can’t even get close to a pose.

    I am also surprised how little yoga seems to have a real spiritual content, just a focus on what body mechanics do for one’s stress.

    • Gaia

      Actually, in its original form, yoga does have a very strong spiritual content. Unfortunately, the way it is practiced nowadays is more as a kind of exercise and less as a mind-body connection practice – ergo, the proliferation of ‘power’ yoga, yoga ‘competitions’ etc. Keep looking bonilloa, and hopefully you will find the right teacher who will make yoga right for you.

      • Grace B

        Also you might like kundalini — which is the most “new age” of all the yoga I’ve tried. I actually really love the chanting and songs.

    • Jolie

      I used to feel this way too. I have a totally different body than all the other women at yoga—in NYC, it seems to be 99% thin people in yoga classes, I’m thicker with a lot of boob. It’s been a year or more since I went to class regularly, but once I started going, I kinda stopped judging myself. Some of those thin, perfect people had no idea what they were doing, just like me.

      I think the trick is to just know that you’re not the only person who feels the way you do about yourself. I’m sure plenty of those girls I thought were perfect felt ugly or inflexible or stupid doing yoga. Even though I worried people would judge me or look down at me for being different, I never noticed anyone who did that to anyone else. It just takes some getting used to.

    • ImaginedInnovation

      Actually, given its country of origin and actual practice, anybody can do yoga. It’s funny, how in India, people don’t need to buy specific yoga clothes, because at its core, yoga is also spiritual exercise and is meant for making you comfortable with you.

      It’s nice that the world has learnt about yoga, but the when First world countries propogate something, specially countries like the US, it brings the doubled edge sword of funky commercialization. It’s ironical, and interesting.

      Here’s an article, if you feel like having a looksie!. 🙂 https://mic.com/articles/132565/no-you-don-t-need-lululemon-here-s-what-yoga-clothes-really-look-like

    • ImaginedInnovation

      And here’s another one I forgot to mention: https://qz.com/428094/where-yoga-is-still-about-spirituality-not-detox-smoothies-and-perfect-bodies/

      I hope I could help you, Bonilloa!

    • Jeanie

      Maybe in yoga studios one can feel self conscious, but yoga is for everyone. Google “plus size yogi” and you’ll see. This lady is a great example: http://people.com/bodies/plus-size-yogi-who-overcame-binge-eating-and-depression-is-inspiring-others/

      I cannot do what she can do!

      • Jamie Leland

        @mynameisjessamyn on instagram is also a good one!

    • Kattigans

      I have to disagree on the spiritual aspect because that really all depends on who the instructor is, what studio you go to and what your intention is for yourself in your practice. And I also have to disagree with your statement about yoga only being for thin people. I’ve been in classes with people of all body types, ages, backgrounds etc. The beautiful thing about yoga is that you can learn and practice anywhere. You don’t need to pay $30 for a class to practice. I’d say being able to afford a price tag like that is more of the privilege than the practice itself.

    • lois

      It’s so funny because when I first started practicing yoga in Northern California (before Lululemon was a thing), I took classes at a YMCA with a hippie grandpa with a ponytail. I was by far the youngest person in the class, most of the class was 50+, of all shapes, and moving the way their body craved.

      Traditionally, asana (the poses) is only one of the eight limbs of yoga. The other 7 have to do with meditation, breathing, stillness, and other things that are supposed to be facilitated with movement.

      I’d say experiment and find a studio that works for you – the worst place to start might be at an Equinox (though some of their classes are great) – brightly lit, mirrors everywhere, generally really fit people. Try finding studios that are candlelit (but with good instructors that can correct your alignment) with no mirrors. But find whatever makes you feel good, both outside and in 🙂

  • Rosa

    I first tried yoga 10 years ago and immediately felt this is “IT”, although the teacher was very rude and almost abusive. For my second class I found another yoga studio and started a journey. Since then, yoga has been with me through the years and a lot of changes: jobs, boyfriend, cities, a miscarriage and a healthy baby. For me it is a process, deep, demanding, transformative, complex.

  • Katie Love Little

    Leandra, you did amazing! You have the attitude of a true yogi. Keep it up! All is coming <3

  • Enjoyed your Week1 and Week 3 photos. It gives a lot of encouragement to readers who think Yoga is not their cup of tea.

  • Just being is enough ❤️ Love this!
    You’re inspiring me to try yoga! Pilates is cool but yeah, yoga!

  • Paula Rodio

    I haven’t done Yoga in months because I am also so very not flexible!The truth is I love Yoga and how it makes me feel so I’m gonna get back…I’m just going to be. Thanks for this article and promoting and practicing acceptance in moments when life is hard to accept, that’s when we need it most.

  • Chetna Singh

    I am not he most flexible person out there and my spine is unyielding to say the least. I could never touch the floor with my fingertips, even as a child while the rest of the class was putting their heads or at least their palms on the floor. I have had an on and off love affair with yoga, months when I was totally dedicated and months where I never went, largely because I could not get to a studio. Lately, I have found an app called Asana rebel which is great! Just 5 minutes everyday and on days when I have more time I do the other workouts, it’s pretty neat.

  • Years ago, I started yoga at the advice of my physical therapist. During this time, I’ve had several joint problems and then there’s the hip replacement. I still can’t do a headstand. I can’t stay in child’s pose. And that difference in your forward bend is amazing progress.
    The flexible take it for granted. The rest of us know progress is about not giving a rat’s ass about what “other people think” or do. And that’s what i learned at yoga class.

  • Kirby

    I love this! I’m doing a 31 days of yoga challenge right now using a youtube channel and it’s amazing. I am also incredible inflexible (I have never in 21 years been able to touch my toes) but the best part of yoga is that’s it’s surprisingly non-judgemental and less about doing the moves as well as the instructor and more about listening to your body and doing whats best for you.
    Also love to see the progress you made! Inspiration to keep me going

    • Eveline

      Adriene? 🙂

      • Kirby

        Yes!

  • Jill Futter

    As my teacher often says in his lovely Scottish accent: “don’t worry about what anyone else around you is doing; do your own practice, as long as you’re breathing”. Keep breathing, keep being. The moment is all there is and ever will be.

  • The idea of learning to be comfortable inside yourself…viewing yoga not as an escape but a way to be closer and more loving to you is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

  • Alison Dick

    I’ll never forget my favorite yoga teacher, Sue Finkle in Savannah, GA (if you’re ever in savannah look her up!!). She’s the one that really taught me that feeling of “you are doing this for *you*, *today*, which might be a different person than you yesterday, or you tomorrow…just listen to your body and your self and do what feels right and good for you! And I played numerous competitive sports my whole life! I never understood what that meant.

  • “one who’s not necessarily looking to get outside of themselves, but who cares to stay inside, and learn how to be comfortable there” is maybe the most precious sentence fragment I’ve ever read <3

  • Kattigans

    “Just being is enough” – That last sentence is like receiving the best hug in the world. The beautiful thing about yoga is how therapeutic it is for the mind, body and soul. I’ve had yoga in my life since I was really young and its been there for me through the good and bad. Learning to let go and accept who we are and celebrate “being” is an incredible feeling that can also be such a challenge to get to considering how stressful life can be. Amazing article, Leandra!

  • CM

    Leandra, your triangle pose is beautiful- so many people, from beginner to experienced alike, tend to fold forward and collapse the chest down, in an effort to touch further down on the leg or to the floor, and then lose the integrity of the pose. Even in your Week 1, your chest remains open toward the sky. Lovely fundamentals… The flexibility will come and is really just the icing on the mindfulness cake.

  • Kate

    Wow. Really glad I found this article & comments. I’d been super down about my body lately (used to be super fit & athletic and then whiplash & arthritis at 25 happened) been gaining weight, etc. Decided to try 30 days of yoga. Was super worried I was going to be the only person who didn’t know what I was doing, but it turns out theres people from so many walks of life & shapes in the class. I’m taking beginner courses & the teachers are great. I’m on day 7 and it’s already been great for my neck tension, also kind of defeating to see how far i am from where I used to be, but I’m looking forward to growing.