Yoga: A Workout That Strengthens the Introvert’s Body AND Mind(fulness)

Yoga — specifically, yoga class — might be the introvert’s ideal workout.

Careful. I can almost hear you (a few of you, at least) scoffing at my use of the term “workout.” Don’t be fooled: Yoga is not what you might think. Or at least yoga is not what I once thought. It is much more than lollygagging around in funky poses, breathing deeply and stretching once in a while as an Enya CD plays softly in the background.

I have now been to two yoga classes — one last week and the other today, just a few hours ago. And even though I should have known better having lost my yoga virginity last week, I went to the gym this morning with what seemed like a sound two-step workout plan:

  1. Go to yoga class.
  2. Do real workout afterwards.

Ten minutes into the one-hour yoga class, even though I was supposed to be working on being mindfully present and in the moment, I made one of my routine jaunts to the future and urgently cooked up a new one-step plan:

  1. Re-evaluate old plan.

Yoga is an intense physical workout, not even remotely what I imagined. The sweat pouring out of my body in class this morning drove the point home nicely. So did my quaking muscles, not to mention my inability to do certain things or move certain ways. I wanted to flawlessly perform all the right moves — to, for example, put my palms on the floor while my legs were straight. My body often did not.

But it will come, I’m sure, as it generally does for me in any physically demanding activity. The whole point of working out, after all, is to build strength and endurance over time. That’s not new to me.

The thing about yoga, though, is that it is also an intense psychological workout for an introvert like me — forever in my head, thinking about something: something from the past or something in the future, generally. Almost never truly present in the now. The exact opposite of what yoga encourages and teaches.

Even today I couldn’t help but continue straying from the present on occasion. This very article was formulating in my head, for starters. To say nothing of the ever-present internal conversations with myself. Sample:

Did she just say “Move through Ticonderoga and into Down Dog?” Maybe she said “Cowabunga.” Or “Anaconda” — at least that’s another animal. Why don’t these moves have cooler, more exotic names anyway? This is yoga, man!

That was shortly before we did a pose called Happy Baby, which I don’t recall actually doing as a baby. And all the while I’m trying to not only hear what the teacher is saying, but understand it so I can actually do it — which isn’t easy when we’re talking about instructions like “breathe through the ribs.”

I wanted to stay in the present. But my mind often did not.

Will this skill, too, come in time? Will I get better at living in the moment? I hope so. That’s why I need the yoga class. It’s teaching me mindfulness strategies that don’t come naturally or easily to me as an introvert. It’s helping me build psychological strength and endurance over time. And that type of workout is new to me.

It all happens in a setting I absolutely love as an introvert — in a quiet room with pleasant music and the instructor’s soothing voice. And with a dozen or so other people who, like me, seem to understand the concept that sometimes you want to be alone with a few other people around. Even as you’re struggling to be truly present.

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