My Yoga Journey… So Far [Part One]

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit “Yoj” meaning to unite or join. Many believe that individuals have been practicing yoga since the dawn of civilization; its origins came thousands of years ago, long before religion or any belief systems existed. This piece is about my own journey, so I won’t spend too much time on the history of yoga, but it’s important to recognize that yoga isn’t some new trendy new age hippie thing. Yoga is practiced all over the world in a variety of ways. Yoga is all about becoming one and feeling harmony with the universe and that’s exactly what I’ve found in my journey so far. It’s incredible how much power we have when we connect with our breath and really feel into our bodies.

Yoga on Hampton Beach with Stacey, Melissa and Patty 🙂

I actually can’t even remember THE FIRST yoga class I ever took, all those years back. The closest thing I can remember is taking a yoga class on the beach with some co-workers several years ago. I remember afterwards I took professional development seminars that allowed me to practice and teach yoga to children in a classroom setting.

Doing yoga poses with my pre-k kiddos during Circle Time gave me the space to be imperfect with my form and familiarize myself with the poses. I would also do Cosmic Yoga with the children I nannied for – which helped me become familiar with what things “should” look like, in a non-threatening or intimidating environment. I had a lot of fun guiding the kiddos through downward dog tunnels, gorilla pose, musical yoga poses, and even meditations. It was never about perfection, just about participating and having fun.

I did attend some yoga classes when I lived up north. I went to the YMCA and did “regular yoga” in a room that was next to the weight room – I remember the sound of people dropping weights as I tried to drop into my body. I had replaced my Wednesday night support group with Wednesday night yoga, and that felt like essential self-care. Now I could feel the bug starting to bite. I was regularly attending this class every Wednesday for at least a few months — that point was probably my most consistent yoga practice. I fondly remember our instructor cocooning us in blankets, for nearly ten minutes, to close our session in savasana. For anyone reading who is unfamiliar with savasana, it is also known as “corpse pose: a meditative posture in which one lies on one’s back that is typically considered the final resting pose in yoga.” (Sometimes people joke that it’s the nap-time pose).

Photo Credit: Pexels

I think the last time I attended yoga prior to moving down south was a class that Jason and I took together at the YMCA – it wasn’t in the room next to the weight room, and I remember the woman really challenged our balance. Reliving that class in my head reminds me how truly out of tune I was with the universe at that point – I wasn’t connected with my body as I was spending most of my time in my head.

Fast forward to August 2020, the big NH-GA move…during a pandemic (yes, that will be a blog post, don’t you worry!) When I found my first yoga class, it seemed the universe might be trying to look out for me. It is a funny story, but I’ll spare the nitty gritty. Basically, UberEats messed up my order from an establishment, I gave a scathing review of the food quality and got offered free food and offered the opportunity to meet up with the owner at a yoga class!!

I want to add that during this time I have been getting deeper into a consistent meditation practices and been searching for different ways to heal the trauma stored in my body – I really was doubling down on my personal development.

Photo Credit: Pexels

My body has been craving yoga for quite some time now. My mom gave me a book of yoga poses and I thought that would help, but I thrive most in a group fitness environment when it comes to exercise (pound drumming, yoga, muscle conditioning at the YMCA were my weekly favorites prior to the pandemic’s virtual classes). I decided to take up my new pal on her offer and check out the Core Power Studio in my area.

I had never done hot yoga, and by all means am still a beginner due to the inconsistency of my practice. However, I started to really fall in love with the Core Power Classes I was taking. I was having a lot of fun and really challenging myself. The studio was fabulous, the instructors were amazing, but I was still relying on my fiancé to give me rides there (we share a vehicle, I sold my car before moving here). I bought a pack of classes that I used over the course of several months when I could find the time to fit it in. (I think I may actually have one class left at that studio!)

Flash forward to months later, June 2021. My darling fiancé chose to sign me up for a free class at an extremely local studio. The studio was across from the learning center I currently work at, a drive that I’ve already felt confident about. In hindsight, it feels like the stars truly aligned and wanted to make this experience as convenient as possible for me so that I could commit to this practice that I’d been craving.

My first class at the YogaSix Dunwoody studio was an evening hot yoga class in the beginning of July. I remember really enjoying the vibes and feeling emotions come up in my body of finding a sense of belonging, even as I write this my eyes fill up with tears as I remember that first session in the studio that I’m now a member of. What stood out to me the most was the hands on assistance (which I appreciate so much) and during savasana they gave out eucalyptus/methol infused cold towels, which definitely SOLD IT for me.

I started off going once a week, and I was feeling extremely empowered. I’d mastered the drive and was enjoying driving myself there and taking that time for myself – this truly had become a self-care practice. One class a week became two classes a week and then soon enough I did something I never believed to be possible: I attended a 6 am class!

I have struggled with mornings my entire life – several months ago I was struggling to get out of bed by 10 and beating myself up about it….now, waking up at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. yoga class seemed easy….it was almost easier to wake up at 5 for yoga than wake up later in the day regularly. Three classes a week became four classes and within the month I’ve tried to fit as many classes as I can… learning that although I used to prefer evening group fitness, I’m preferring these earlier classes as a way to get my day started. I can’t express fully how extremely proud I am of myself for getting to this point.

There’s a saying within the yoga practice which is to have gratitude for where you are in your practice. I am feeling so much gratitude for what my body is capable of. I am truly falling in love with this temple, this vessel. I appreciate the movements I am able to make and I’ve never felt more connected to my body as a whole. I know that I’ve only been a member for a month, but I am feeling so much momentum in my yoga practice, it’s like a really healthy addiction, an addiction to self-care and showing my body how much I love and honor it.

Why Yoga is Beneficial to Me

Yoga has been essential to helping my mental health – moving to a new place during a pandemic added to the challenges of meeting friends in new places or even getting out of the house. It has been so lovely to get out of the house and interact with the community and be part of the group fitness experience. I really thrive off these experiences and the energy of others – I always feel as though I push myself a little further when I can see what those around me are capable of.

A younger version of me would have felt jealousy at the headstands and extreme poses that the advanced yogis show off, but instead I feel gratitude for where I am at and excitement for what’s capable for me. I know that I have the potential to do headstands and all sorts of poses that seem really difficult to me right now. I know that practice makes better, and I’m so excited to continue on this path and see where it leads.

Yoga has helped me with my stress levels, mental health, etc. In part two, perhaps I’ll go more into the health benefits that I’ve noticed after a longer-term and more consistent practice. Right now, the biggest feeling I get is EXCITEMENT – I look forward to finding that time on the mat, and I prioritize it. Even on days that I don’t go to the studio, I do yoga videos at home on my mat. I truly cherish this practice.

Styles of Yoga I Prefer

“Hatha yoga is a catchall term for any type of yoga that pairs poses (“asanas”) with breathing techniques (“pranayama”). Essentially, many of the yoga styles that are popular in the U.S.—like ashtanga, restorative, vinyasaIyengar, etc.—fall under the umbrella of hatha.” I choose the Power, Sculpt, and Hot yoga classes to attend at the studio and I’ve been doing some core balance and bedtime yoga at home (I got some custom videos). At this point in my practice, I really enjoy the hot room and pushing myself through these more difficult classes.

I took a class the other day which was without a doubt the hottest hot yoga class I had ever taken in my life. I actually thought I was going to pass out at some points, and thankfully the lovely instructor opened the doors so that we could get some air. I definitely recommend familiarizing yourself with yoga in a regular climate prior to jumping into yoga in a heated room.

What I look for in an instructor:

When it comes to an ideal yoga instructor: it’s all about the attitude. I want someone who has a good personality and good energy who will push me out of my comfort zone but ALSO allow me to move at my own pace. I never want to feel incredibly pressured – I want to feel respected that I’m able to honor what my body is capable of at this time and trust that I am trying my very best at any given moment. Something I always enjoyed about the Zumba classes I attended was that no one was pressuring you to be perfect or do things exactly the same way – there’s always modifications to make to be able to participate. I like when instructors are mindful and speak with intention versus just seemingly going through the motions. I don’t want someone who is going to push me harder than I feel comfortable – that can be a turn off for me if I feel like I’m in boot camp or pressured to push myself farther than I’m comfortable. I absolutely LOVE the hands on assistance and the help with my form – I think that has been extremely beneficial to my practice.

Limiting Beliefs – The Only Con

Credit: Pexels

Memberships to yoga studios can be pricey – the price tag was one of the limitations that stopped me from committing sooner. I was lucky to get in with a really good first month rate and get locked into a decent monthly rate that is worth the investment for me at this point in my life and my practice. If you’re interested in yoga you may want to check out the freebies online and work your way gradually to see if you’re interested in becoming a member at a studio. If money isn’t an issue for you – then it’ll be even easier for you to be picky with the community you choose to join!

What is your familiarity with yoga? Do you have any tips or recommendations? Do you have any requests?

That’s all for now, thanks so much for joining me on this journey. Be on the look out for part two!

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