Monday, March 16, 2015

Yoga and I -- 20 Years Later

This year marks a big anniversary for me -- a yogaversery!

I took my first yoga class 20 years ago this summer. It was in Minnesota and the instructor -- there are very few certified yoga instructors then -- was an older man who was crazy-strict yogi. He would come by my mat often to make adjustments and SHOVE my back down so I could reach my toes. But I was stressed that summer and twisting my body up like a pretzel and focusing on breathing was such good medicine. I fell in love with yoga right then and there. 

Yoga was just becoming a "thing" back then. So, I was kinda an odd duck for practicing. Look at it now! 

Since, I've practiced yoga in six different states and even more studios, and it's been fun to look back at all the places and people I learned from.

In California, I took Hatha classes with a crunchy old hippie focused on chakras and "worshipping" your body. There was also an older women who taught retirees at the local YMCA. She liked teasing us about the older celebrities she also taught. "I can't tell you her name, but she loves Warrior II," in a sing-song voice.  

Then there was Laurel in Ohio. She ran her studio like a military camp, with a group of instructors or instructors-in-training who behaved like worshiping minions. These classes were jammed-pack. You were inches away from your neighbors on all sides. And the room got smelly and hot. But you quickly learned the yoga virtue of centering and concentrating only on your mat, ignoring all the distractions. She and her minion army were tough teachers, but I learned and progressed far in her studio. This was pre-kids, so I could get to her classes twice a week, too.  

There was the prenatal yoga class I was dedicated to while pregnant with Leah and not-as-dedicated to with Alice (harder to get to class with a toddler running around). I still remember that lovely feeling of releasing tension in my back and legs each week while my belly just kept growing and getting heavier. The instructor was kind and a Doula -- so gave lots of advice on the delivery that I actually used. 

And then Shane in New Jersey. Again I was experiencing a stressful time with two little kids and full-time job rigamarole. I was constant frenetic motion! I wasn't at his class every week but I would conjure up his soothing voice any time I found myself in a crazy-anxious situation and in need of calming down. For me, this always worked. 

Not to say I've been super-dedicated to my practice. There are years I simply didn't go. In college, I just couldn't afford it. Post-college Hoboken didn't even have a yoga studio, other than Bikram (HOT!) -- which didn't interest me. With new infants, I couldn't make myself leave the house to get to a class. And after each house move, it usually took me months to locate a studio that I liked. 

Each time I return to my mat, the years of yoga ensures that my form will be pretty good -- even if I can't get into the more-challanging positions. Because asanas are pretty universal, I can go to a class and follow the instruction without too much trouble. And I usually enjoy meeting a new instructor, as they usually have a new position to try.

I don't want to think where I'd be without yoga these last two decades. Happy yoga-anniversary to me!


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