If you just read my last post, “Navigating a Lay-off with Well-being: The Three “E’s,” you’ll know that I am managing a recent (and unexpected) lay-off. As I enter week three of my journey, I am finding an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for yoga in all its forms. I am returning to it in more earnest these days, finding the need to ground myself in its principles and actions of practice to anchor my mind, body, and soul. I am awash in nostalgia thinking about my 30-year love affair with yoga, from my first discovery to my favorite ways to practice today.
My introduction to yoga was by total chance! Back in the early 1990s, when I was 24, I found a surprising book on yoga by Raquel Welch (The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program) in the finished basement of a townhouse I had just moved into in Minneapolis. I had never done yoga before and had such an immediate visceral reaction, that I not only started practicing the poses in the book, I immediately began to organically sketch each pose in colorful charcoal drawings. Unfortunately, the drawings are lost, but not the kinesthetic power of the images I was embracing. A seed was planted.
As yoga became more and more popular, so did finding places to study. I was an on-again, off-again kind of practitioner for many years as more studios opened and yoga was becoming more of a regular fixture in gyms. Although the classes were challenging, I found that the flexibility and balance of my dance training made the classes not feel so foreign. But it was also a physical activity that was nothing like I had done before. It was slow, focused, and grounding. I enjoyed learning how to steady my mind in new ways and learn interesting philosophical life principles.
One day, in 2011, I finally made the leap into teaching while serving as a group fitness coordinator at a fitness center – I simply stepped in when the teacher couldn’t make it to class. Although nervous, the experience was exhilarating. I would eventually pick up a regular yoga class in a gym and teach yoga in my corporate well-being job. I made it official and received my yoga certification in 2016 and taught in a studio soon after. Through the years, I also made it a point to take as many different types of yoga classes as I could find – from hatha, vinyasa and hot yoga to Yin and Yoga Nidra. I also explored the more esoteric forms of yoga such as Kundalini, pranayama (breathing), Kirtan (chanting), and meditation in its various forms (I am particularly fond of Chakra meditation). Finally in 2019, with a new job with a new commute that limited my class time, I started a home yoga practice with the online platform, Ekhart Yoga. I would religiously use the platform for the duration of the Pandemic. Yoga, again, proves its grounding force.
One thing, though, has certainly changed these past thirty years – and that’s my body, and all that it’s capable of doing. Yoga has seen me through times when I was deconditioned to when I was at my fitness peak. I became an advanced practitioner later in life, able to master poses I only dreamed about when I was younger. However, my body has morphed in unexpected ways, especially with my spine becoming less and less mobile with some serious vertebral issues and arthritis, and unexpected knee surgery. It has been the most challenging the past two and a half years, to accept this new body with limited capabilities. But yoga has a unique way of meeting me where I am at.
Practicing yoga regularly is like coming home every day. Yoga reminds us that the joy is in the journey and not in the final destination. It also teaches self-compassion and love. Key ingredients to accepting a changing and aging body. I turned 55 this week, and grateful to have a regular physical activity that will walk alongside me for the rest of my life. Yoga is also a great community builder. I love to seek out yoga classes whenever and whereever I travel – it’s a universal connector!
If you haven’t tried yoga before or practiced it in a long while, there are great reasons to try it or pick it up again including reducing stress and anxiety and increasing mobility and balance. You can get the benefits of yoga in as little as 30 seconds with some deep breathing or stretching your arms over your head! It’s also easier than ever to access, with countless in-person gyms and studios offering classes, and virtual options such as fitness apps, YouTube, and dedicated online yoga platforms. There are also some great books to further your learning with this list.
My sincerest gratitude to the countless yoga teachers, writers, and philosophers who have passed down this extraordinary practice through the millenniums. I am grateful to walk in your footsteps. Namaste.
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