A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. –Lao Tzu
While in my 20s, I tried yoga a couple of times. It drove me crazy. The breathing, the laying there, the sort of doing something physical but not getting sweaty. I felt like if I was going to take the time to put on athletic gear I might as well sweat.
Fast forward September 2013. At the time I had been working out routinely twice a week (cardio step and body pump). I felt like if I could squeeze one more workout in per week I’d be at an every other day schedule and would maybe break plateau. Being in my 40s, I was feeling a lot of aches and pains in new places and thought the yoga might stretch me out a little bit. And, I was super stressed-out between work and kids. Not only did I need a little Saturday morning time out of the house, I needed a way to de-stress. I had tried to do some mindfulness/breathing and just couldn’t sit still long enough to do it. If I could sort of kill two birds with one stone (breathing/ mindfulness plus the physical aspect of a workout) it would be a great use of my precious “me” time. Moms are such great multi-taskers aren’t we? Ok, and in full disclosure, the Athleta catalog came in the mail and was captured by the yoga poses and clothes so I also wanted to find a little bit of a reason to get some yoga / to-fro outfits. (Keeping it real here).
I signed up for Shanti Yoga Shala in Philadelphia’s gayborhood. I had walked past it a few times and it didn’t look super intimidating, they had a bowl of green apples sitting out in the waiting room, and Tria was across the street for afternoon wine tasting (and yes, actually did some yoga-then-wine with my sister a few times). I signed up for my first class on a Sunday morning with Larry. I was the first one there and lied when he asked me if I was new to yoga (I mean, it was maybe a little exaggeration of the truth, I did yoga a few times on my xbox workout game in 2004). Now that I’ve been doing yoga regularly 1-2 times per week for over a year now, I think back to those classes with Larry and realize that we were doing pretty standard sun salutation flows. So I’m pretty sure it was obvious that I had no clue what I was doing. That said, it didn’t feel weird. No one was looking at me or noticing me. Larry came over and corrected some positions, but these adjustments didn’t hurt my perfectionist ego. They made my practice richer, I felt the poses more deeply and really felt a connection to the other yogis and the practice in a way I didn’t realize was possible. This isn’t to say that my first few classes were a breeze and all joy. They were hard. I sweat (and this wasn’t even hot yoga!). I was sore the next day like I would be after an actual workout. I was dying to know how anyone could possibly find downward dog relaxing. A few times I wished I hadn’t had that lentil soup the night before. At least 10 times per class I needed to move my brain off of my to-do list and back to my breathing. And I hated laying still for savasana. But I kept coming back to my mat each week. I tried new poses, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and downward dog indeed became a rest pose between multiple planks and side planks. Savasana became a true respite after a challenging workout and before entering into the stress of the rest of my day.
My husband started to notice a difference in my stress levels and noticed I talked about yoga like a “real” workout. He’s a runner and has some arthritis stuff so his doctor recommended yoga. He joined me for a class after I had been going for a few months. I immediately realized about one minute into the first class that there were things Mike was going to hate … Ugh, and there it was… the triple “om.” Then, Larry started reading something about chakras (and I could almost feel Mike’s eyes rolling back into his head). But after that intro, he liked it! He really liked it! Although, being really into my own practice, I was not into what he was doing. I now understood why I felt so accepted my first practice. I now understood the principle so clearly: in yoga you are competing against yourself. Your mind is the only thing in the way of reaching your goals. Whatever is going on around you doesn’t matter. Oh, then it happened. (Back to Mike’s first class). Larry did the “ear thing” as we settled into savasana. Mike hates having his ear touched. But he survived and fell asleep, snoring through the remainder of our rest.
So that became our thing: Saturday morning yoga dates. My physicality was improving and we were starting to “get good” at yoga. We decided to move from Shanti to something a little more athletic. So we went to Philly Power Yoga (aka: philly yoga factory). This was a true hot power yoga class. It was fucking hard. I had no idea yoga could be such an intense workout! I’m thankful for those early months with Larry where I had the opportunity to perfect my form and could push past my limits in this heavily physical activity. The culture at PPY was totally at opposite ends of the spectrum from Shanti. First of all, we went from a 4-6 person class to 30 (+?) yogis packed in tightly, no adjustments from the instructor, and hot hot hot room. Super hot. The clientele was less hippy-dippy and much more young professionals. We were probably the oldest people in the class. It was sort of a pain the ass for us to get there. We had to take two subways with enough of an annoyance factor that made yoga a little stressful.
I was on a mission to find a new power yoga class for us, that worked for our schedule and wasn’t “too hot” (Mike’s request). So we found Anjali Power Yoga. These classes were just as intense but in a more intimate setting. My power yoga was reaching new levels (and my shoulders were looking hottttt from all the chaturangas!) at this point, I was working out five times a week, sometimes six doing body combat, body pump and piyo. Power yoga, while very physical, was a great break for my mind and for my muscles. I was doing body combat and body pump twice a week and these muscles needed to stretch.
Occasionally, I like to try a new studio just to see what else is out there. My favorite studio where I don’t have a pass is Focus Barre and Yoga. It was there that I did my first crow pose (when the teacher told me to lean forward until I think “shit, I’m going to fall in my head.”) It was there where I held king dancer for the full count and balanced from eagle pose to airplane to standing split. I guess something about going outside your typical studio and leaving your comfort zone gives you even more power to try new things.
That confidence has given me the courage to try new workouts that I would never had tried without this new confidence. I figured there wasn’t much that could embarrass me much after my first yoga class. I saw the progress that I could make just by going, just being present, and doing the best I could each week.
We are still doing our weekend yoga dates, although, our favorite instructor is not teaching the Saturday morning class anymore. We are still in search of the perfect Philly studio that’s not “too hot” (still Mike’s request). I am still practicing to be completely present on my mat, try as hard as I can each class, and push myself outside of my comfort zone a little more each time.