Why I Practice Yoga

The idea of yoga always fascinated me.  I loved the yogi vibe, their lithe bodies, and their simplicity.  I first purchased a Pilates video and didn’t mind completing it, but didn’t feel passionate of accomplished in regards to taking them.  Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to go to a Pilates class at my gym, surprised and impressed that I was able to keep up with the rest of the class.  After sharing with a friend that I had always wanted to try yoga, we decided to attend one at our gym together.

The only thing I remember about that class is that my normally baggy gym clothes were not conducive to yoga; I spent most of the class trying to keep my oversized Eagles T-shirt from falling up during downward dog.  I couldn’t get my mind to shut down during Shavasana and laid there waiting to feel something zen.

As weeks went by, yoga became a class I attended regularly and looked forward to.  I enjoyed the challenge and found myself to be good at it.  Yes, I saw progress in my weights classes, but there is a much greater sense of accomplishment the first time you’re able to master a pose that has previously alluded you than there will ever be when you go up a weight set in class.  (“Look, I’m using the blue weights instead of the orange ones” isn’t nearly as cool as mastering camel or crow for the first time!)

I am competitive by nature.  However, my competitiveness is subtle.  You won’t know we are competing, but I assure you that we are in my mind!  I am not tiny.  My figure is average, but not what I would consider athletic.  Years of retail, waitressing, and teaching gave me muscular legs, but that’s about it.  In spite of my figure, I am really good at yoga.  It is rewarding that I am never the smallest person in the class, but I can keep up and sometimes exceed other in the class.  Once, I took a class filled with women wearing Lululemon sports bras and leggings.  I was totally overwhelmed by them (my issue, not theirs).  While fully aware that this goes against everything yoga teaches, it made me feel better to discover that I was just as flexible and talented in my practice.

Most weeks, I am able to attend two yoga classes: a higher and a lower level class.  Tuesday’s class is challenging.  I love being sweaty and winded when I leave.  Saturday morning’s  class is low-key and relaxed.  We complain if we are made to stand up.  During both classes, we laugh, get sidetracked, and engage in inappropriate conversation.  Learning the importance of breathing has greatly helped my weightlifting.

Yoga reminds me to take time for myself and that doing so isn’t selfish.  It makes me a better wife, mother, friend, and teacher.

Yoga reminds me that I need to recharge and challenge my mind as well as my body.

Yoga reminds me that it is okay to topple, fall, and not be able to do things.  If they are important to me, I will keep trying and achieve them.  (Hello headstand and mermaid.)

Yoga reminds me that I am a work in progress and that habits must be maintained to stay sharp.

Yoga Without Mirrors

My yoga squad consists of some of the most important people in my life.  In adulthood, there aren’t many friends we get to see twice a week.  We know the intricacies of each other’s lives, share successes, and vent when we need to.  We tease each other yet push ourselves to take risks and become better versions of ourselves.  We confess secrets and fears and show our vulnerabilities to each other.  These women know me better than most other people in my life.

Two years ago, our instructor moved the studio to a new location, one without a mirror.  The first few sessions were difficult.  I relied on the mirror to make sure I was aligned, that I was properly holding poses, and to bask in my badassness when I mastered a pose that previously eluded me.   I needed those mirrors and not having them was a new challenge.

Weeks and months went by. I learned to judge my form by how I felt, with guidance from Nora as needed.  Surprisingly, I found mastering poses easier without the mirror.  Previously, I would get so close to a pose, check myself out in the mirror, break my drishti, and tumble.  Without mirrors, I was finally able to nail handstand.  I can hold crow for a few seconds and pull my leg higher in dancer.  I focus on my practice rather than worrying about how I think I look.

Last night, I tried a stability class at another studio.  At the front of the room was a full-length mirror.  I couldn’t stop watching.  While there were a few times that I was genuinely pleased with seeing my muscle tone and admiring what I was able to do, most of my glances resulted in me grimacing or adjusting my flowy top to hide a tummy roll.

Early in my practice, I relied on the mirror to tell me on I was on the right track.  As my confidence grew, I relied on knowledge and intuition.  Practicing yoga without a mirror has taught me to trust my instinct and knowledge to get myself where I need to be.