I’ve owned a pair of yoga pants for years, and while they’ve been plenty useful for hanging around the house, they never performed the function for which they were designed until a few weeks ago, when I found myself agreeing to go to a yoga class while on vacation.
Yoga has never particularly appealed to me; I’ve always considered myself far too cynical and impatient to spend an hour practicing breathing and mindfulness. My aunt once gave me a book entitled “Yoga at Your Desk” in the hope of encouraging me to at least do a few poses while reading, and even that didn’t work. And yet, while leafing through the spa pamphlet in Arizona, my mom mentioned the possibility of our taking a yoga class, and the idea suddenly sounded compelling. Maybe it was the calming energy of all the relaxed people around me at the Sedona spa. Maybe I was just itching for something new. Whatever the reason, I donned my yoga pants and headed for the class feeling moderately excited.
Like the typical New Yorkers that we are, my mom and I were late to our session and arrived frazzled and hurried, which even I knew wasn’t the most appropriate pre-yoga mindset. But this didn’t seem to faze our calm, smiling instructor, Kim. As she led us to her studio she spoke in soothing tones, just as I had imagined a yoga instructor would, and she listened patiently as I prefaced the session with a description of my utter lack of experience. She told me not to worry, and we began. The hour went by fairly quickly (likely in part because we had arrived fifteen minutes late). I was unfamiliar with most of the poses, and I almost certainly got a few of them wrong, but for the most part, I was a lot more comfortable than I thought I’d be, and there were moments when I found myself truly enjoying it. At least until Kim began to guide us in a meditation, at which point my cynical nature started to kick in. My mind immediately began to wander: “This isn’t working. Why isn’t this working? Why can’t I picture the healing light going through me like she’s describing? It’s still not working.” Five minutes of internal debate later, the meditation was over, and after a few more poses, our time was up.
Though I didn’t leave as a total yoga convert, I felt that I was at least able to get inside the minds of those who do love yoga, even if for only an hour. I began to understand why others enjoyed the experience and all that can be gained from it, even if I personally didn’t connect to it as strongly as they did. Although this outcome was all that I’d hoped for out of this particular activity, I started to realize that those aren’t the goals with which most of us normally embark on new experiences. When most of us try something new, we do so with the confidence that we will enjoy it wholeheartedly. But that expectation of success can prevent us from ever having truly new experiences.
From the moment we begin our college career, we’re told to “try new things.” Most of us associate that concept with activities that, while we may not have tried them yet, we are fairly certain we will be somewhat interested in and skilled at. But we often don’t factor in those experiences that are so far out of our habitual realms that we cannot even anticipate what they might be like. We usually avoid taking that chance; after all, what’s the point when there are so many other opportunities that are guaranteed to be the right fit? But maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to shy away from risk-taking. These four years are possibly the only time in our lives when we find ourselves in a safe, supportive environment where we are encouraged to try our hand at whatever piques our curiosity with very few consequences of failure.
I wish I’d realized this more fully as a freshman; if I had, my eyes would have been opened to many more opportunities that I might’ve thought were closed to me because they didn’t precisely fit my personality or my interests.
So, freshmen, as you begin to explore the array of incredible possibilities available to you here, don’t be afraid to extend a bit past your vision of what “someone like you” would or should do in college. Take an astronomy course even if you don’t know the first thing about stars and planets. If the table for the poetry magazine at the activity fair looks interesting but the voice in your head says, “That’s not me,” consider taking that as your cue to sign up. There is very little to lose. In the best-case scenario, you will inadvertently stumble upon a magical new world that turns out to be just what you were looking for. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll try something once and realize that you never want to do it again, but even so, you’ll leave with just a bit more experience and perspective under your belt than you would have had you never stepped into the metaphorical yoga studio.