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A Gym Rat Walks into a Yoga Studio…

Until recently, the only experience I had with yoga was trying it and hating it. I took MANY classes – I didn’t just try it once and give up – but it really wasn’t my thing. Granted, though, I was obese my entire childhood and physical activity of any kind really wasn’t my thing. I grew older, I got fitter, I became a personal trainer, and I slowly went from barely tolerating to absolutely loving exercise, so I thought I’d revisit the yoga thing – and I’m glad I did. Having fallen in love with lifting and cardio, I was admittedly skeptical about what a hot yoga class could offer me. A few short and sweaty months later, however, I now find myself passionate about sharing the powerful lessons this incredible experience has taught and continues to teach me.

Part One: New Day, Every day

I’ve heard it said that no one can read the same book twice. Although the book certainly stays the same, the reader does not. No matter how much or how little, we all inevitably change over time, and that influences how we experience and interpret the world (or, for the sake of completing an effective metaphor, a book). The same, I have learned, goes for workouts.

The first physical exercise of my hot yoga class – after a warm-up focused mostly on deep breathing and mental focus – is a posture that calls for everybody to stand with their palms clasped together straight overhead, stretching long and tall to one side. The move just before it, however, requires that we breathe our arms straight up into the same posture and bend slightly and slowly back and forth from one side to the next, swaying back and forth in order to, as my instructor says, “See how flexible you’re feeling today.” Or, “How loose you’re feeling today.” Or, “Where you’re tight today.” Or, “If you’re feeling any pain or soreness today.”

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Having now done the exact same hour-long yoga routine at least fifty times over the last six months, I can say with complete confidence that the key word in all of these, and many other similar commands throughout the class, is “today.” Some days you’ll bend farther, deeper, lower, than the day before. Some days your body will be too tight to reach the same depth it did the previous week. Some days your balance is complete crap, but then some days you can stand on one leg for a very impressive amount of time. Some days you have a ton of energy, some days you have none at all. Some days you totally crush it. Some days you just don’t. You’re not always getting “better” or “worse.” You are a human being.

The same applies to any and every other physical activity. You may do the same routine, the same exercises, the same cardio and the same lifts on a regular and regimented schedule, but YOU are not the same. Maybe you haven’t changed much as a person from one leg day to the next, but they will still all be different leg days. Maybe you do the same chest pushes every Monday and the same back pulls every Friday, but your chest and back won’t always feel the same. Nor should they. How could they? If, every single day, you ate the same amount of the same foods, and drank the same amount of water, and slept the same number of minutes, and were always in the same mood, maybe you’d have a shot. But life is full of a never-ending list of fluid variables – some of which we are more aware of and in tune with than others – and so too will be our workouts.

I constantly find myself thinking, “But you could do this last week!” or “What’s wrong with you, what’s going on with you? You could handle this last time! You were faster/stronger/better last time!” Maybe I could and maybe I was, but last time was last time and this time is this time. Maybe next time, for next time is next time. Let yourself accept the fact that every workout is its own, ignore the instinct to criticize your fragile human self, and applaud yourself for everything you ARE doing. You are still you. And if you feel temporarily lost, remind yourself with kindness and patience that you will most certainly be back.

This blog originally appeared as a guest blog post for New Leaf Fitness

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