While I would most certainly call myself a yogi, this was not always the case. I used to be like most former athletes — wanting my workout to feel, well, like a “workout.” For years, my fitness routine was based around exercises I had done during practice for the various sports I once played, or long distance running, which too often left me injured. At the time, yoga just looked like stretching — a practice meant for old people or crunchy hipsters. Yet my sister was neither of these things, and she was the one who brought me to my first yoga class.
I remember it well. I was visiting her in Oxford, England where she lived (and still lives) after receiving her PhD, and she brought me along to her weekly yoga class. I was more familiar than I thought with many of the moves, as many of them were variations of things I had done in gymnastics. However, I spent most of the class watching the people around me, and trying to follow them as the teacher spatted out a bunch of funny sounding yoga terms I didn’t really understand.
I definitely broke a bit of a sweat and was fairly sore the next day, but I was not sold. I didn’t practice yoga again for another few years, until I moved to California, blew out my knee, and had to get creative with different ways to move my body. My physical therapist recommended I try this one “amazing” yoga studio, where the teacher would easily modify the practice around my injury. At first, I would go to yoga simply because it was one of my only options to really get my whole body moving without further injuring my knee. Then as I started to go more regularly and was not only understanding the terms the teacher was saying, but able to do more advanced variations of poses, I started to really appreciate it as a workout. Then one night I showed up to the large studio and it was packed wall to wall with about 100 yogis. I guess I hadn’t paid attention or cared enough that the founder of the studio, who only taught retreats at that point, was actually teaching that evening.
As I flowed through the practice in this room, which, at first, felt far too crowded, something came over me and I felt the power of that many people moving and breathing together and sharing a common practice with no words said between us. It was then that I came to appreciate the power of the yoga community. However, I was still not really a “yogi” and not totally sold on the practice. As soon as my knee was ready for “real” workouts, I was up and running — literally — and let yoga go.
Fast forward to 2010 when my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I left my job at the time to look after her, and my boyfriend at the time moved to Michigan to go to business school just two months later — I found myself rather lost. Without much thought, I threw myself fully into running and training for a marathon. However, again, after battling injury after injury, I was recommended to balance my running with yoga. In my head I thought, “Yeah, I’ve tried the yoga thing — it’s not for me,” but I obliged.
It was during this time that I finally became a “yogi.” I found a studio I truly connected with and a practice that not only challenged my body, but tapped into my mind and soul. I started to religiously show up to the mat daily, and no longer for just the workout (although it was extremely physically rigorous), but it offered me such center, such calm, and such strength at a time when my life felt like a complete storm. I learned the power of just breathing. I learned the power of meditation. And I was actually in some of the best shape of my life — and I have never looked back.
While my relationship with yoga still goes through ebbs and flows, my mat, my breath, and my practice is a place I know I can always return to when I need to rebalance and recenter, and then I also remember how much it can kick my butt.
I am purposely not sharing with you which yoga studio finally got me to that place, or what my go-to practice is now — as this is the point of this story. I hear from so many people that “they just aren’t into yoga,” and I encourage you to challenge yourself. With so many different styles of yoga, and even studios offering hip-hop yoga classes now, I truly believe there is a practice out there for everyone. Like anything else in health or in life, it’s just a matter of finding what works for YOU, and that takes trial and error and a willingness to try! I also shared this as I think so many people feel that if you aren’t a “yogi” then you shouldn’t be doing yoga — and this is just so far from the case. The beauty of yoga is that you really can pick it up at ANY time and you can do it anywhere.
Most importantly, I am a true and deep believer in the power of yoga — both for our bodies and our minds. If I have fallen out of practice, within a few sessions back on the mat, I can feel the difference both physically and mentally, and this is something that is not only available to anyone, but I deeply encourage all of you — athlete, non-athlete, old, young, male, female — to put some effort into finding a practice that works for you. Yoga has been one of the greatest gifts in my life, and I promise, if you give it a chance - a REAL chance - it will be one in yours as well.
Our featured fitness studio this week, Yoga Works, offers so many different practices of yoga, and truly something for everyone, so you are bound to find the right fit for you. It’s also a great place to discover many different types of practices, as their instructors are knowledgeable in both practice and teaching, and they make any yogi feel right at home. With locations all over the country, you can get in your yoga fix anywhere.
This week’s content celebrates everything that a yoga state-of-mind brings to our lives: YogaWorks instructors Maeve McCaffrey and Sarah Ezrin talk about the holistic benefits of yoga and why yoga is actually a serious workout for your body; nutrition expert Alex Jay answers questions about everything Juice Press and why their juices and smoothies are meant to keep your body in tip-top shape; Rae Broderick from Strala Yoga weighs in on presenting our most authentic selves; and I wrote this week on how yoga has the power to unite us all.
Give yoga a chance, if you haven’t already! I promise you wont regret it, even a little bit.
Until next week,
Founder, CEO, and Host
The Sweat Life