After a really tough and really awesome yoga class a few days ago, I got to thinking about my yoga journey — how I went from being absolutely clueless to literally needing it in my life to stay sane.
I started doing yoga in high school. I took it as my PE class senior year, and all I remember was waiting desperately for savasana so I could literally nap before having to go to math class. Aside from PE, I went to exactly one 45-minute class outside of school, and all I remember from that was trying to do a headstand. (Wrong.)
Then I went to college and never did yoga, thought about yoga, or cared about yoga.
I don’t know what sparked my interest in it again, but about two years ago I started doing some 20-minute online videos to help stretch after my runs. I actually found this to be super helpful — that’s when I learned that hey, this sequence of down dog, low pushup, sweep your arms up thing happens over and over. It means something.
When I finally moved to Brooklyn, I started going to Hosh, a donation based studio in Greenpoint. I liked that you could pay what you want and I liked going to classes with different teachers each time. I got a little taste of everything, and I learned something different from each instructor. I figured out the types of yoga I like, and the types of teaching I respond best to.
Then I tried Bikram, cause, c’mon, you gotta. And I cried. The teacher yelled at me because I was doing a pose wrong and I cried.
So I stuck to my classes at Hosh, and also started going to Prana Power Yoga, which has hot vinyasa classes (not bikram!). This is when my practice really improved. Having the same teacher almost every week helped me get better at the poses I knew were coming. I learned what a real chaturanga looked like. I could also, finally, touch my toes.
And after all the years of exploring and experimenting, I know what I look for in a yoga class. Music? It’s gotta be soothing. “Oms” playing during savasana? If possible, no. Teachers in jeans? Please practice with me instead. Meditating for the whole class? Not what I signed up for.
Hands on? Adjust away! Chanting? Go for it. Tell me stories and philosophy and how I can leave my problems behind? Heck yes.
Maybe most importantly, I realized I was a lot calmer IRL (Namaste.) I started doing what all my teachers told me to do: take the practice off the mat. If I got stressed, I would do like I learned while holding chair pose for way too long: Breathe into it.
And oddly enough, it works.
What I love most about yoga, and what I think sets it apart from running, is that it forces you slow down and look inward. I know I sometimes use running to literally run away from things, but with yoga, you’re prompted to dedicate your practice to something — a person, a concept, a word, an idea. It may sound silly, but it becomes natural. I literally think about someone or something for the whole class, and try my best to move into every pose with that intention. And with that, I also try to improve myself. With running, I sometimes just go through the motions. It’s numbers. It’s mechanical.
I’m challenged and humbled after almost every yoga class — they can be more physically and mentally tough than a 20-mile run. For me, the benefits are nearly endless, and I’m itching to getting more time to practice after Eugene.
So with that, namaste & all that jazz,