Years ago I read an article about Madonna. In the interview someone asked her how she stays in such great shape. She went on to say that she practices yoga every day. I’m pretty sure I snorted and rolled my eyes and said to myself, “yeah whatever, that’s such bullsh*t.”
Then within the last 2 years I started practicing yoga, and realized she might be on to something.
Let’s back up a bit here before I get all Namaste on you, gentle readers. I have been a runner since high school. No other sport or physical fitness activity has resonated with me the way I’ve connected with running. My running pace is slow and steady, and I enjoy being outside, and listening to my feet hit the pavement. I’ve ran three marathons and a handful of other races and they are soul satisfying. I like being competitive with myself, but have come to appreciate just being able to run rather than get my proverbial panties in a bunch about race and pace times. So in my old state of mind, unless I was sweating and breathless, I was not getting a good work out.
In my old state of mind, I thought yoga was just a bunch of stretching and girls in lululemon booty pants.
When we lived in Chicago a friend of mine convinced me to take a few Bikram Yoga classes with her. This was my first introduction to yoga. For those that don’t know, Bikram Yoga is taught in a room that is roughly 100 degrees. There are 26 individual poses that you do throughout the hour and half all led by the teacher . The heat was stifling and I almost had a mini panic attack upon entering the room thinking that I would choke on the heat. But the workout was incredible. I had never sweated so much in my life. In the end I wasn’t hooked, it was just a little too much for me.
After moving to Vermont, I had terrible lower back pain; something that had really plagued me for the last few years. Likely from carrying around my little boy who was in the 99th percentile for weight. That little chunker. I decided to try out a yoga studio here in town…and it wasn’t Bikram Yoga. So it wasn’t heated… I was worried that it wouldn’t be a work out. But low and behold, I sweated like crazy, could barely hold any of the poses…and the best indicator of a good workout: I was sore the next day. And bonus, my lower back pain started to subside. Then I got pregnant with my second child and thought I couldn’t practice yoga again. Insert sad face. But wait…I discovered prenatal yoga. This is where I really got hooked.
I went to prenatal yoga religiously for the last 20 weeks of my pregnancy. I was having a great deal of anxiety with my pregnancy and yoga helped alleviate some of that stress. In addition, the stretching and breathing, no doubt helped me with my labor and delivery. I continued to take post natal yoga after Ruby was born and then life got busy and I stopped going to class.
This past summer I started to feel my anxiety levels grow and with the help of my therapist (yes I go to therapy—we should all go to therapy, it’d make the world a better place) she encouraged me to get back involved with yoga. I was lucky enough to find a yoga class geared for runners. I go almost every Monday and I look forward to that alone time on the mat. It’s become a sanctuary for me where I push my body but quiet my mind.
The journey here to this place hasn’t been easy. The stillness of some of the poses caused my mind to wander and allow anxiety to creep in. In fact, I cried a few times doing yoga. Fortunately for me, the lights were dim and no one saw me. But I realized as I was moving through all these poses and breathing that my body was working out some of the “stuff” that I’ve been holding onto and it manifested itself in tears.
I felt vulnerable. Yet I felt incredibly safe, standing and grounded there on my cheap mat I had purchased at Target years ago. And this is why I love yoga.
If you can find a space in your life where you can open your heart and feel vulnerable but at the same time allow your body to become stronger through poses and breathing…it’s a place you should be in at least once or twice a week. And for me, a die-hard runner…I never found that space in my running.
I realize yoga isn’t for everyone. It’s intimidating at first, at least it was for me. I was worried I’d be standing next to a bunch of gurus who could do headstands all while looking gorgeous. Yes there are some of those yoga types out there. I’ve learned to ignore them, on most days. Going with a friend to yoga helped me make the leap into my first class. I also told the teacher at the beginning of class that I was new to yoga. She was a great yoga teacher for me, allowing me space to try the new poses but also helping adjust and correct when necessary. I have found classes to have varying degrees of difficulty and right now I’m still at the beginner stage, more or less. I can’t do any headstands, and I continually lose my balance on some of the simplest of poses. And that’s ok. No need to get all fancy with my yoga clothes—something comfy and bought from Target. Because, Target. People are barefoot in yoga class, and I only briefly entertained the idea of getting a pedicure to cover up my hobbit-esque feet. No one even notices feet…they’re too busy staring at your ass. Kidding!
As with every kind of new exercise I have learned to take it slow. I’ve tried to challenge myself and go beyond my comfort zone at least mentally. What’s that saying?