Category Archives: Budding Yogi

If you’re the type who gives up on things mid-way through – don’t do that today.

Last night I took my first Kundalini yoga class at Okra yoga studio in Plaza Midwood. It was a night of firsts, as it was also my first time ever at Okra. Luckily I’ve been disciplined in my practice this week so an hour of god-awful uptown traffic to drive all of 8 miles to the new studio didn’t ruin my zen. I’d hoped for a nice 15-20 minutes to get acquainted with the studio, but instead I had to quickly snag a (luckily) open spot across the street and dash in. I was instantly struck by the homey vibe. The studio felt well lived in, like a place you wanted to spend an afternoon sipping tea and chatting yoga with your best friends – or new friends. The yoga room itself spoke to nature and the earth. Curtain rods resembled branches, soft yellow light filled the space, and some sort of essential oil or incense gave the room a soothing scent. I think it may have been lavender. I love that stuff.

This was all quite different from my yoga experience to date. For some context, aside from a few occasions of home practice or catching a class while on vacation, the majority of my practice has been at Arrichion in Southend where the style is hot and the vibe is athletic versus spiritual. I’m addicted to the heat and I love being constantly challenged to become strong – not skinny. Having recently completed the instructional piece of my RYT200 certification, I’ve challenged myself to try new studios and new yoga styles to help define what I want to personally teach and bring to my students.

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Mermaid Pose – one of my challenge poses during RYT200 training.

Kundalini was definitely a departure from everything I’ve practiced before, but I enjoyed it immensely. The focus of the class as described by our instructor, Carly, was to move energy in a precise, specific way through the body – or along our chakras (energy centers.) It is a perfected ‘technology,’ she said. We were warned that as a style of yoga which emerged in the ’70s we may find some of it ‘silly’ but to just do it any way. It would be worth it. It was.

The class consisted of focused breathwork, endurance-challenging holds, deep stretching, and meditative chant. Throughout the emphasis was on opening the heart and at the end we focused our energy at heart center and released it along with well-wishes to the world. We closed with a song, and I may have found my voice mingling with my fellow practitioners to be the most cathartic release of the class. Carly was charming and fun, but she also challenged us exclaiming ‘if you’re the type who gives up on things mid-way through – don’t do that today!’ Those words struck a chord and after class I continued to meditate on what they meant to me. I’ve found I have often set things aside when they became dull, too hard or too easy, unpopular or frustrating. Her words – while not directed at me necessarily – really hit home. I know there most likely won’t be an overnight miracle, but I suspect that next time I’m going to release my yoga pose just as the burn sets in, or I’m thinking about quitting a job, hobby, eating regimen or other personal challenge, I’ll hear Carly’s words in the back of my mind and maybe, just maybe I’ll reconsider and I’ll choose to push through instead of giving up.

Thank you Carly for giving me that gift, and for introducing me to a beautiful new practice. Namaste.

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The day I managed Crow

I took up yoga a little less than two years ago. I’d dabbled here or there, but seriously started my practice after discovering you could do yoga at 104 degrees. Some people might consider subjecting yourself to stifling heat as a tortuous affair, but for me? For me it’s bliss. I love the heat. Maybe the sensation of being warm and floating in liquid (read drenched in sweat) is reminiscent of the womb. Maybe I’ve got issues. Maybe.

Some people practice for spiritual reasons. Some for fitness. Some because it’s trendy. I do it for all of the above and because I’m a control freak. I can control my practice even if I can’t control anything else in my life.  But mainly, I practice because yoga is a time to block out all the other noise and focus on building strength. Mental and physical strength.

Hot yoga isn’t easy. Sometimes it gets so hot I can barely breathe. Contorting my body backwards and forwards, I get nauseous. Some days I can’t make it all the way through and need to take a timeout in child’s pose for a few minutes – some days for the rest of class. The more I practice, the harder it gets and the harder I push myself. Some days I feel like I’m never going to be capable of splits and headstands and balancing only on an elbow — but then, there are days when I do this:

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On these days, I feel I’m only beginning to learn what I’m capable of. I’ve been trying to master Crow for over a year. I thought it was a lost cause. I attended a special Crow University class – a whole hour dedicated to practicing Crow – and I couldn’t get into it for more than a fraction of a second. Maybe three weeks ago I finally managed to hold it for a second or two. Now, I can hold maybe 5-10 seconds. That’s exponential improvement right there.

I’m far from mastering, so far I’ve only managed. I won’t be satisfied until I can hold it the full minute, and I’m not even doing it entirely right yet, but that’s not the point. This was a lesson in not giving up. This was about discovering I can be strong. This was a lesson in the power of commitment and that the things we are most proud of don’t come easy, but instead take time and practice. These are lessons I can apply in every aspect of my life, and I see them illustrated in my practice. Not online, not in a book, not because my mom or best friend or sister said it was possible – but because I lived it. I did it.

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