I’m on a yoga high! My muscles feel flexible and strong from work and I feel as though nothing could ever phase me again. There’s something magical about the combination of mental peace and physical exhaustion you experience after a particularly challenging and rewarding yoga practice.
I did not come to yoga easily. For many years, I fought it “kicking and screaming”, as my mom would say, even though she’s an instructor and I was around it my entire life. Why? It’s hard. Or it can be if you try things you and your body aren’t ready for. Even at my fittest — 5’7″ and a size 4, dancing five days a week — I hated yoga because it required me to stretch in ways that I wasn’t flexible. Dancers turn out, yogis don’t. When you’re accustomed to being extremely flexible, examples of inflexibility can be hard to accept, and so I avoided yoga throughout my childhood, adolescence, college years and early twenties.
In 2007, when I was looking for a fun form of exercise that would help with back pain, I found pilates. Joseph Pilates, who founded the practice, had worked with dancers and so my prior dance training made it easier for me to accept and adjust to the exercises. Brian and I attended weekly pilates classes for the next few years, gaining a lot of core strength in the process.
Over time, our spiritual evolution drew us to yoga. Brian, in particular, liked that yoga is an ancient practice and combines the physical, mental and spiritual. We took an introductory class together — Brian had never done it before — and then continued attending sunrise classes at the same studio afterward. Even though we felt amazing after each class, 6:30am isn’t an ideal time of day for us so we didn’t attend regularly or practice on our own. Pilates remained our primary form of stretching and strength-building.
Upon arriving in Hawaii, we decided to pursue yoga more seriously. The first studio we visited, we loved. Their focus is Iyengar yoga, which involves the use of blocks, blankets and ropes to assist in achieving proper form. Because of the increased personal attention and the focus on doing things correctly, we’ve gained a much better understanding of how to do our asanas (i.e. poses) properly and what the goal of each is. I’ve become a devotee!
Although our plan for Hawaii was to shed travel weight, we bought a yoga mat, bag and a belt to practice at home and are both doing so regularly. Sometimes it’s just cat pose and downward facing hero to stretch my back; sometimes it’s the cat pose and hip series; and sometimes it’s a full practice including downward dog, warrior I and II, triangle and more. Although I’m still a complete neophyte, yoga has become essential.
If you’ve struck out with yoga in the past, look into a class based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar. I give full credit for my newfound devotion to his style of yoga and to our instructors at BIYC, Julie and Reagan. Ironically, Iyengar yoga is the style my mom also teaches, but I guess I wasn’t ready to embrace it until now. That’s how life is sometimes, right?
What do you do to find inner peace?