I’ve always been a fitness girl. It used to be solely for surface reasons, like staying skinny. Then later developed into a necessity for staying sane. (My husband and kids can concur that after two days of no physical activity I totally turn into Mean-Mom!) Eventually, the urge to workout ingrained itself into my on-the-go lifestyle. But it turned out — toned legs and a firm butt weren’t the end-all in exercise for me. While I was well on my way to excellent shape, I felt there was more to make with my fitness routine. The machines at the gym got boring. And the same old set of classes didn’t really excite. I was looking to add meaning to my movement.
I first found yoga in my twenties. With a freelance styling schedule that placed extra emphasis on the free, I was enabled to commit pretty heartily to the practice. It began with gym yoga. The Tuesday/ Thursday 12:15pm vinyasa class at Crunch pact ‘em in like sardines, and gave me the satisfactory sweat session of my regular workout. But there was something else going on in that class. The teacher would make subtle suggestions on how to move (and feel!) the body. He’d remind us to stand on all four corners of the feet. Or he would say grow your side body while twisting from the bottom of the naval. He spoke a lot about the heart center. And the breath. These micro-movements really opened me up to my coming-of-age-practice. As my attention settled deep into my body, I’d zone in on the essence of the movement. This crystal-clear focus encouraged clarity. Which led to something completely new to my twenty-something brain. I stopped thinking! No more worrying about the lentil soup ingredients that needed to be purchased before dinner. Or the pink polish chipping off my toes. It was just me in the moment with my senses fully alive.
So there I’d be — dancing gracefully through the series of sun salutations that poured seamlessly into an assortment of bendy to balance poses. The movements were always accented with an inhale or an exhale. My body would heat up, and my mind turned off. It was definitely a vigorous class filled with jump-backs, jump-throughs, and a constant flow of motion. But I must confess that it was the action-packed sequencing that kept my interest piqued. I’m a high-energy girl — a restorative class would not have had the same lure! (Though probably was what I needed most!) I had discovered the perfect yoga class to transition from my monotonous-I’m-just-going-through-the-motions gym routine to a practice that engaged my mind body and soul.
A couple years later I got into Ashtanga, which is what I always considered the ballet of yoga. It’s a great way to learn the fundamentals while building incredible strength. Like any hardcore Ashtangi I’d pedal my bike fast and furious across East Houston street at 6:30am each day to make the Mysore practice. I was hooked on the discipline. The primary series became a foundation for my self-practice. (And still is!) Once you’ve got that sequence down, you can take your practice anywhere – across the world, or straight to your living room! Oh, and the core strength that evolves from Ashtanga easily exceeds the mind numbing exercises in an abs class!
All that discipline and strengthening got me thinking I was ready to take it up a notch. I enrolled in the working girls edition of a yoga teacher training. The instruction was 3 hours each evening for six months. Here I studied the intricacies of yoga from the Sutras to alignment points to anatomy. As luck had it– I landed a teaching gig right after my 200 hour certification. I stuck with teaching until I got pregnant. It was then I put my yoga practice on pause. Taking care of Baby M literally sucked all the energy from me. There was nothing left to give — not to a class of curious yogis, or even to myself. It took years to replenish. Once G had surpassed the need-my-mama-for-absolutely-everything-phase, I came back to yoga. (Though still not teaching.)
As someone who’s been known to dabble in and out of her interests, yoga has been the one constant that keeps calling my name. Yes, it comfortable because I know the poses (even in Sanskrit!) But it’s not easy. Sometimes in class I feel frustrated, angry, or sad. I’ve definitely shed some tears in asana. Many times I’m tired. But I’m never bored. And I almost always leave the class feeling calm, clear and connected.
I don’t go on yoga retreats (though it does have its appeal!), and I don’t practice daily (right now I subscribe more to the weekly program.) I don’t have a guru teacher that I follow. And I prefer to stay somewhat anonymous in the community. But I do have my place (Kula rocks!) and I will always have MY practice.
I go to yoga because it gives me exactly what I need, right when I need it. A warm welcome back to my body. A clear opening for my mind. And a true connection to my soul.
Why do you go to yoga (or whatever your preferred movement practice is)?