What I Learned From Yoga
Today I wanna talk about yoga. Why I got started, how it's changed me and how it can help you too!
These days boutique yoga studios are popping up everywhere. Seriously, in NYC they're just as prevalent as a Starbucks or Chase bank on nearly every corner. But let's take it back 7-10 years ago B.C. (that's Before Classpass) when New Yorkers mostly worked out in gyms! There weren't that many yoga studios around and certainly not one that offered "free yoga." That's right, Yoga to the People offered free classes to the public. Ok so maybe it wasn't free (it's donation based with suggested amount of $10) but as a broke college student it's no wonder I took classes there.
I don't remember the exact reasons why I started taking yoga but I know one thing for sure. I wasn't taking it for mental clarity, to gain an inner sense of self, or become closer to “God."
What I do remember is that I didn't look forward to taking it, there were moments that I dreaded being there, and I wanted to use it as a way to help me lose weight/be more "fit." I can vividly remember flowing through the poses and saying to myself, "f%#! Why did I come here?!"
I know what that sounds like and who I am today is so far from the girl I was in college. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted abs. I wanted to be liked. I did yoga but I was so far from actually practicing it. Around the same time that I got tired of the vicious self-loathe/diet cycle (see one post back for more on that), I just got fed up with exercise that I did NOT enjoy and so I made it a point to try several different types of workouts… including different yoga studios.
Finding movement you actually enjoy is like trying different types of ice cream.
Just because you don’t like strawberry ice cream doesn’t mean that all ice cream sucks.
You have to try different flavors. And if you're into taking classes, finding the right instructor can be like dating. You have to see how you feel in the studio, if you vibe with the instructor, what do you give and gain out of the class?
Well, I can't say I have great dating skills but my exceptional Googling skills led me to Laughing Lotus - which remains one of my favorite yoga studios in the city. Turns out it wasn't the studio that was wrong.. but more so my mindset. I reaped the most when I stopped asking for physical results and instead started asking, “What will I learn about myself today?” I could go on and on about the many things I gained since practicing yoga but here it is in a nutshell:
It’s not at all about how long you can hold each pose (that’s a thought we create in our heads) but rather flowing through the thoughts that come up while on the mat. And if you’re anything like me, some negative/harsh $hiz will show up... it’s about breathing and flowing through those moments.
Trust me, housing fear, resentment and anger does no body’s body good. I call that soul sucking energy. Moving through the stuff that shows up while you’re on the mat can help you make space for more loving thoughts.
This can lead to a decrease in stress and levels of anxiety.
Studies show that yoga can heighten certain brain chemicals that combat depression.
It also improves flexibility, reduces back pain and can help lower blood pressure.
It allows us to re-connect with our mind and body. Not to mention, it shows us all the amazing things our bodies are capable of doing.
Bet you didn’t think you could be in chair pose for 30 seconds? Think again.
Remember, at the core of yoga there's no pressure to be perfect physically, emotionally or spiritually. Every time you show up on the mat, you are essentially showing up for yourself. Maybe it will be helpful for you too, or maybe it won't - but you won't know until you try. All I know is that I look forward to it as part of my self-care routine and know that I walk out of class a better human than before I entered it.
I know going to a class can be ultra intimidating. Been there. Done that. Still feel that way when I try something new. But if you are looking to give yoga a try, here’s a few studios that I liked and hope you enjoy too! If you try any of them, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Yoga to the People - Grateful for this incredibly giving studio that makes yoga accessible to everyone. Still maintains a suggested $10 donation after all these years.
Laughing Lotus – For beginners I’d recommend Lotus Flow, lot’s of energetic music and a bit of chanting. Favorite part is listening to the instructors share a personal story which I can then apply to myself.
Strala Yoga – Simply and purely yoga. Great but challenging classes that you can download and do at home, on your own time. Led by the amazing Tara Stiles
Yoga Vida – Welcoming studio. Great intro class that explains each move. No chanting.
Yoga Works – Offers a variety of teaching styles and modifications for different levels.