Sweat drips down my face as I hold tree pose. We’re not far from savasana now, and the yoga instructor encourages us to move into warrior III without touching down. It takes every ounce of energy to flow into that balance pose and extend my foot and arm in opposite directions. I hear the instructor giving us cues but I’m focused in my “own world”. After flowing through the same set of balance poses on the other side, I find myself lying peacefully in savasana with a cold-lavender towel draped across my eyes. My mind drifting away to its happy place.
I fell in love with yoga as soon as I did my first sun salutation and it continues to be one of my favorite things to do. My first yoga class that I took was at a studio in Boston back in the winter of 2008. It was a beginner-hot-yoga class. Hot Yoga classes typically have the room heated to at least 92 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Since it was my first class, I went to the beginner class, where the room was heated to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It was exactly what I needed, mentally and physically.
One of the reasons I chose the hot yoga class was because I always had this mindset that I needed to work-out every day and in order for it to be a work-out, I needed to sweat. My friend recommended the class to me as I needed something since I was a California runner-girl stuck living in five feet of snow.
Although, I loved the class, I had the hardest time slowing down and being present. Anytime I was in a pose for longer than a few seconds, I was itching to keep moving. I always enjoyed the teachers that kept a steady pace and kept us moving and sweating. During the first few years of my yoga practices, I really struggled with savasana, or corpse pose, where you lie on your back on your mat, allowing yourself time to rest and reflect. Technically, savasana is the easiest yoga pose but there was a lot in my mind that I didn’t want to reflect on and somehow that made savasana very challenging. I wasn’t used to allowing my mind quiet-time.
I still love the challenging aspects of yoga, including allowing myself time in savasana to be calm and be still. I’ve learned to embrace more restorative classes and poses, as these are the poses that have helped balance my mind and body. I even allow myself to take child’s pose instead of that extra plank or down-dog, or take the less intense option on days that I know my body is tired and needs recovery.
Every time I step onto my mat, I feel my body is aching for this. My whole body and mind wakes up and says, “Thank you, Julie, thank you!” Thank you for taking time to nurture your aching muscles and your busy mind. Thank you for recognizing exercise is more than miles and miles of running.
I start and my body and mind align. It’s like nothing else matters but moving my body through the different poses. Yoga combines body, mind, and spirit. I leave the mat feeling lighter on my feet, stronger, clear minded.
Running is still my number one love when it comes to exercise but yoga isn’t that far behind it. Yoga has taught me a lot and has given me so much. It’s taught me to be kind to myself both physically and mentally. To slow down and to embrace the challenges and the gifts of life. That simply breathing and taking quiet-moments can be calming when there’s a lot of chaos in life.
Teaching yoga is a way for me to explore yoga even more. It’s interesting to see how similar we all are as we embark through life and the challenges that come into our lives. Sure, we all have different histories, bodies, minds, and challenges. But we are all humans with emotions; humans that need time to reflect, balance our challenges with rewards, and find ways to manage our emotions. Through watching people practice yoga, I have seen yoga’s ability to transform. For some, that transformation has been purely physical- getting stronger, losing weight, getting more flexible. For others, it’s a psychological and emotional transformation- feeling mentally stronger or using yoga to help manage the psychological challenges they are faced with. Staying on the mat takes both physical and mental grit and when you work through that, you feel powerful and so strong.
You gain belief in yourself. I’ve ran a lot of races and a lot of miles but there’s something about learning how to do a head stand or doing an arm balance for the first time, that helps give you an overwhelming sense of belief in yourself. These are moments that I see transform people.
I hear a lot of my clients and friends say they haven’t tried yoga because of many different reasons. Yoga can feel intimidating because it seems everyone is super flexible, only eats vegetables, and stands on their heads all day. It can seem like there’s so much to learn about yoga, countless poses, what the Sanskrit names mean, and how to move. But it’s not like that, and with anything, you have to find what’s right for you.
What do you like most about yoga? If you haven’t tried yoga, what is holding you back from trying?