I have a confession to make: I’ve never done yoga.
Not only that, but as a former competitive runner, I used to think yoga was just a lazy way to exercise. I didn’t see the point of chanting “omm” or standing in tree pose, when I could be out there running, doing “real” exercise.
Which is why when I sat down to talk to Julia Lopez, yoga expert and co-owner of Honest Soul Yoga and Practice Everywhere, I didn’t know what to expect.
Was there more to yoga than I thought? Were there benefits to the practice I’d never heard of? And would my inflexible, yoga-skeptical self be convinced to try it once and for all?
Within the first five minutes of my conversation with Julia, I realized that the answer to all three of my questions was going to be a resounding yes. Because the first thing I noticed about her was her energy. Calm, open, and kind. And I wanted what she had. The ability to be present. The positivity. The sense of calm. Not only was I hearing about the benefits of yoga from her, I was also seeing them first hand.
Here’s what I learned from our conversation:
1 - Yoga makes you feel totally (buzzword warning) “zen”
I’ve heard the word zen thrown around when it comes to yoga. But I never really “got” it. So when Julia explained the indescribable feeling one gets at the end of a yoga class, it suddenly made sense to me. This is why people do yoga. To feel something like this:
“When we’re sleeping, we’re not aware of things. When we're awake, we're always busy. So when you can be in a state where you feel present, you feel safe, and you’re not worried about the future or the past, you experience a sort of liberation. And that I think is a birthright for everyone. Feeling totally blank. Feeling totally yourself. Feeling totally rested.”
If there’s one thing that would convince me to try yoga, it’s this. This feeling. This total, peaceful blankness. What was I saying?
2 - Yoga can make you a better - and more eco-conscious - person?!
Did you know the worlds of sustainability and yoga actually intersect? I didn't either!
According to Julia, “when you start to participate in wellness practices, it doesn’t just affect how you operate within yourself. You also think about how you operate within the world, and that’s really a tenet of yoga. It encourages you to be mindful of the products you’re using, where things are made, how things are made, and how people are treated in the process.”
Mindfulness in yoga leads to mindfulness in your daily choices! Like switching to reusable paper towels, naturally.
3 - Yoga teaches you lessons more valuable than a four-year college degree
Before my conversation with Julia, I thought because I wasn't flexible, yoga wasn't for me - what’s the point of even trying? And that’s precisely what yoga teaches us not to do. “Adults typically like to do things they’re good at,” says Julia, “and they like to shy away from things that don’t fit within their narrative of ‘I’m good at this,’ but you can’t think that way with yoga.”
As Julia explains it, in life, we like to think ahead, to classify things, to only put our energy into things we know we're good at. But yoga makes us take a step back. To pause our brains. To re-evaluate what we expect from ourselves and the world around us.
“Just because something is uncomfortable,” Julia says, “doesn’t mean it’s bad. And we’re conditioned to think of things as either being good or bad, and yoga changes our understanding of that. Through yoga we start to realize that ‘I like something’ doesn’t always equal good, and ‘I don’t like something’ doesn’t always equal bad. You don’t have to like a pose. It doesn’t have to feel comfortable. But it’s going to be over soon and you don’t have to have commentary or internal dialogue around how it feels. We’re just feeling.”
As someone who over-analyzes, over-thinks, over-prods every situation in my life, the idea that you can just feel something without having to categorize it sounds completely intriguing.
Julia Lopez, co-owner of Honest Soul Yoga and Practice Everywhere
4 - There’s more to yoga than meets the eye
Yoga isn’t just about becoming more flexible or getting in better shape. It’s about so much more. Here’s how Julia explains it:
“The hard and fast measurements are what usually encourage people to start. Like getting better sleep, losing weight, feeling stronger - things you see measurable results for. But it’s the stuff that’s more valuable, but harder to create a metric around that become the surprise. So when someone says I feel more creative, or I feel more empathetic to those around me, or I feel less stressed, that’s a benefit!”
Talking to Julia, I learned that everything I thought I knew about yoga was totally wrong. It’s not a form of lazy exercise. It’s not something you need any special skills to do. And it’s something that benefits everyone - in more ways than one.
So will my inflexible, yoga-skeptical self be doing the thing I never thought was “for me?” You bet. But the real question is, will you be joining me?