As much as I would like to offer a beautiful and existential story of my introduction to yoga, I can’t. Unfortunately, my increasing desire to master this ancient practice started from an all-too-common occurrence of me vigorously attempting to reach a goal. In this case, a t-shirt and free month of gym membership. About a year ago my gym offered a challenge: attend 15 classes in eight weeks and get a t-shirt, 30 classes and get a t-shirt and a free month. I wanted both. While two of my lovely and level-headed friends pursued the t-shirt and attained their goal easily and without interfering much with their schedules, I grasped for the ultimate prize. I did reach this particular goal, but not without some major scheduling acrobatics. (Ironically, I have yet to see that free month, but I did get my name posted on the window to the gym’s classroom).

I had to increase my course load by a couple of classes a week to guarantee success. In addition to two Bodypump classes and one Bootcamp, the only other option I could fit in was Yoga, and there were three classes a week that I could consistently attend. (I understand that my math is suspect, but I wanted to guarantee that I would at least achieve one small, personal success that semester). Eight weeks later and with over 40 classes on my punch card, I re-discovered my indifference to weight training, grudging approach to cardio, and seemingly natural attraction to yoga. In the year that followed, I dropped the weights, turned in my sneakers, and did enough yoga to require several mat cleanings. I also developed a strong desire to take the necessary steps towards a yoga teaching certification. This is my present position.

I wasn’t surprised that I almost instantly loved yoga. My mom dabbled in yoga when she was younger and often encouraged me to try it out. (She has since started practicing again at home). My husband, who has always been athletic, active, and healthy, suggested yoga on several occasions and usually in response to my whinings about wanting to be healthier. Of course, I am convinced that my frequent lamentations of stress and anxiety encouraged the suggestion of the one exercise that promised relaxation. And I do feel more relaxed, at times even serene. If I am completely honest, though, my research on yoga (and being in the university for over a decade determines that I will always do research) revealed a new motivation for sticking with yoga that has a very strong pull. People who consistently practice yoga look lean and healthy. People like Jennifer Aniston do yoga. Have you seen her arms? I’ll get my mat.

In the months that followed my rare achievement of a random goal, I tried several types of yoga. The instructors at my gym primarily teach a standard Vinyasa flow. One of my wonderful friends and I took an Ashtanga flow workshop, and I’ve toyed with Power Yoga. Just this week, actually, I started practicing with a new teacher who specializes in Power Yoga (I think cardio is stalking me, even to my yoga mat). Another fantastic friend and I even drove over two hours to take a hot yoga class (a day that ended in Italian food and a glass of wine al fresco in our then not-so-aromatic yoga clothes). I have since decided that while I do not enjoy cardio, I do not mind sweating for a purpose. That same wonderful friend took myself and our other gym buddy (and one of my favorite people) to an ashram in the Bahamas for a three-day Sivananda yoga retreat to celebrate her doctoral graduation. (Yes, my friends are stellar). This retreat featured four hours of yoga a day, a vegetarian diet (my normal fare), no air conditioning, community facilities, and a lot of chanting in Sanskrit by the staff (chanting, I’ve decided, is not my favorite). A manta ray swam under me while I floated in the ocean. I held a headstand for several seconds during a yoga class on a platform overlooking the bay. I had visions of “Aniston arms” dancing in my inverted head.

While I haven’t been entirely consistent, and have yet to develop a home practice, I have kept up with yoga better in this past year than I usually do with such endeavors. There is something wonderfully and inexplicably calming about contorting one’s body into awkward shapes dubbed “Pigeon pose” or “Bird of Paradise” (my current pose goal). There is something invigorating about learning to breathe intentionally. I’m starting to understand what it feels like to follow Psalm 46:10 and “be still.”

Months ago after one of the classes at my gym, our yoga instructor brought us out of savasana with a question that is partly to blame for my scheduled registration for Yogafit’s Level 1 training. She asked, “Don’t you want to help someone else feel as calm and relaxed as you do right now?” Yes, I thought. I would love for that to be at least my sometimes job. I want to develop a practice and learn a skill that is judgement-free. I want toned arms.  (I also decided that I want to learn and teach pre-natal yoga particularly, but that is a topic for a future post).

Thus the origin of one of my current, non-academic endeavors. I suppose yoga would be categorized as a health goal, although the goal itself is fairly vague, aside from the certification.

~Namaste and Arrivederci