By Lindsey Valdez
Born and raised in Colorado, I grew up in a super-active, outdoorsy family of athletes. Skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, baseball, softball, basketball, football, and dance were all a huge part of our daily lives and family activities. I grew up a "jock," and I pursued dance and softball into my high school years. It was my dance coach who led me to my first yoga class. She made our entire dance team take the class as part of our conditioning and training for our big State dance competition, saying that it would be good for our flexibility and focus.
At the time I barely knew what yoga was, and I really wasn’t interested either — but I was dedicated to my dance team, so I registered for the YMCA class and gave it a go. I still remember thinking it was so boring: too slow, too quiet (I was used to moving my body to loud, fast-paced, mash-ups of pop and dance music), and I definitely didn’t understand the breath cues or the funky language the instructor was speaking, nor could I appreciate being asked to put my body into what I perceived as weird and uncomfortable positions. I think I only lasted two classes before dropping it all together. Looking back now, I can admit that it was my competitiveness, and the fact that I wasn’t very good at it, that turned me off from continuing to practice. (Yes, that little thing called my ego was getting in the way.) I picked yoga back up and put it down a few more times down the road, but it wasn’t until about five years later — after I grew my wings moving from Colorado to San Diego to New York City — that I found my way back into the yoga studio and onto my yoga mat.
I will never forget the yoga class when it finally came together, when I actually “got it” and everything changed for me. That one experience when I fell in love with yoga and felt the Power of the Practice. I was working a big-girl job in the Big Apple and needless to say I was stressed, over-worked, under-paid, depleted, and just going through the motions feeling disconnected, lost, and uninspired. I didn’t know what I needed or what I wanted, but I was aching for … something. Something to connect to, something to light me up again. Sound familiar New Yorkers?
The class I took was a Hot Ki Power Vinyasa class at what is now my home studio, Pure Yoga on the Upper West Side, taught by an amazing instructor, Isauro Fernandez. I mistakenly dropped into the class only because I misread the schedule, and missed the Open Level/Beginners class I meant to try. I remember thinking, "Yikes, it's going to be HOT? How hot? And what the heck is Ki?" (By the way, the class is a vigorous flow, taught in 100+ degree heat to rock 'n' roll music - combining the Zen and focus of martial arts and meditation, with the core strength and conditioning of power Vinyasa.) I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I took myself into that hot studio and onto my mat anyway.
BOOM! WOW! WOAH?!! What had just happened to me? I was blown away! It was by far the most challenging, most intense, most athletic, and most FUN form of physical exercise I had ever done! This was NOT the yoga I had remembered trying back in high school or the handful of times after. First of all, it wasn't all girls — there were tons of guys (including the instructor) and people twice my age, and everyone was completely comfortable, stripped-down wearing next to nothing and sweating. They were jumping forward and backward across their mats with ease, popping up into handstands and headstands, and doing crazy arm balances and things I had never seen before. This athletic, Colorado kid, “jock” couldn’t do half the poses that day, but I was amazed, excited, beyond humbled, and 100% hooked.
Yoga soon became my equalizer. It was my saving grace, my outlet, but more importantly my inlet — it enhanced everything for me. On the mat I developed so much strength, flexibility, and balance. Off the mat I felt more focused at work, I was more confident, and just felt more capable in general. Yoga was my medicine. It gave me that feeling again. That feeling I used to get when I was dancing, a feeling of freedom in my body, the ability to let go and flow. My body began to find the yoga poses more naturally and organically, and practicing yoga sent waves of energy and pure joy throughout me. It lit me up again, it got me connected, and it gave me a want to learn more and share yoga with others.
Fast forward to today, and I am proudly a certified full-time yoga instructor teaching yoga in New York City and beyond. I teach Vinyasa style yoga to all levels, shapes, and sizes, male and female, to pregnant mommies, children, and even young basketball players and adult soccer leagues. Yes, yoga is for EVERYONE!
I’ve been able to share and introduce yoga to my family and friends who never thought they could do it or would like it. I love teaching yoga to beginners and skeptics — being able to share with them the goodness of this sacred practice by helping them find the poses in their bodies, helping them to experience their breath, watching them tap into their flow, and seeing them “get it” and connect. It’s the most amazing feeling, and the most rewarding job.
With the recent fitness boom not only in wellness but also in mindfulness, more and more people are turning to yoga — it’s said to be somewhere around a 27 billion dollar industry, and growing. Sure, some of the draw can be attributed to the sexy yoga apparel, the fancy yoga studios, and the exotic yoga retreats held worldwide, but I choose to believe that the yoga boom is attributed to that fact that yoga really works. People come to the mat for a million different reasons, but I believe that they keep coming back because of the benefits and the feeling they get during and after the practice. Yoga not only stretches, strengthens, and cleanses our bodies; it stretches, strengthens, and cleanses our minds and our spirits — and really, what could be better than that?
A lifelong athlete, dancer, and lover of the outdoors, Lindsey Valdez found a strong attraction to Yoga. A trip to India awakened her desire to dive deeper into her practice with a want to learn more and share Yoga with others. Lindsey earned her 200-hour teaching certification from Pure Yoga in New York City studying under Kay Kay Clivio, Yogi Charu, and Adam Vitolo. Lindsey is also certified in Pre-natal Yoga, Children’s Yoga, and completed a 100-hour mentorship under Tanya Boulton focusing on Hot Power Yoga and Hands-on adjustments. Lindsey teaches Vinyasa Yoga at Chelsea Piers Mind Body Studio; Hot Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga at Pure Yoga studios; Yoga for Athletes to youth basketball players through Mo Motion; Yoga for soccer players through the Geezers Football Club; children’s yoga in New York City elementary schools; as well as group and private sessions across the city. Her classes seek to target the inner strength, grace, and harmonious spirit within all of her students.