Editor’s Note: Earlier this year we sat down with Greg Long and talked all things health. The following is an excerpt from our conversation.
Yoga really is an all-encompassing way of life. The physical practice is such a small part of it.
The actually physical practice, as far as your strength, balance, and flexibility, is the perfect complement to any sport – whether it’s rehabilitative or preventative maintenance of injury. Really, it’s all about learning to be present in that moment, becoming comfortable with yourself, and understanding that you’re right here and now. This is where you are, and it’s up to you to make whatever changes that you want. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else or criticize yourself for not being strong enough or flexible enough. Just be content where you are and have that desire to improve.
People often go to classes, and they’re looking at the person next to them saying, “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not that flexible,” but as soon as you can get beyond that and understand, “Hey, this is your life,” and it’s the only one that’s truly relevant and the only one you have control over. I know it’s a cliché, but you really are capable of doing anything if you put the time and attention to it. Learn to breathe and be happy in that moment and work towards becoming better.
For me, when I first started years and years ago, I could barely touch past my knees. My back hurt. I had two knee injuries that I kind of muscled my way through, and if I hadn’t slowed down for a minute and started giving more thought to my body and seeing it as an amazing blessing and caring for it the way that everyone should, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. My surfing career would have ended a long time ago, and my overall health, wellbeing, and happiness… who knows what would have happened?
Yoga transformed my life in so many ways. Physically, obviously, but it also changed my entire mental outlook into how I try to live my life. There are a lot of different aspects to what yoga is. People see it a lot in the Western Culture as the actual physical practice, and that’s available to anybody.
Go find an introductory class with a teacher that you enjoy. Learn to appreciate being a beginner in something again. That’s another thing in society: we’re so caught up in comparing ourselves to other people–how they look, how talented they are at certain things–that keeps us from exploring who we are and what we’re capable of. A few months ago, when I was injured, I picked up the guitar and learned to play a bit. It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to do but shied away from, because I thought it was too late to learn now. But it’s amazing to be a beginner at something. The steps and accomplishments. Keeping it to your own personal challenges. Not worrying about the rest of the world or what everyone else is doing around you, but doing what feels good to you.