At the time, we were fitness instructors at a 5 star spa in Las Vegas and I taught Spin, Bootcamp, kickboxing, Body Pump, and any other class you could think of – except for yoga.
Yoga, I had ignorantly and incorrectly assumed, was a snore-fest that was mainly for people that didn’t actually want to work hard.
“I think you’d be surprised Jen,” she replied. “Your mind and body could probably really use it…and it’s not as easy as you’d think.”
Reluctantly I walked into the yoga studio, grabbed a mat and set it up – where else – facing the mirror.
“No, we don’t face the mirror. Turn your mat towards the wall.”
What? Don’t face the mirror? How else am I going to see what I’m doing and, if I’m being brutally honest, stare at myself? I turned my mat to face the bare wall and we began.
I remember trembling and sweating profusely as I tried to hold the elementary poses she cued during that 45 minute class. Me, the self proclaimed Fitness Queen was unable to hold a static lunge for 5 breaths. I kept losing my balance and my heart was obnoxiously pounding at what I was certain was an audible level to fellow participants. By the time class was over I flopped down to my mat in a sweaty heap and immediately fell asleep during Savasana (the final meditation). Oops.
My newfound passion led me to yoga certifications, reading The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, quizzing my yogi friends non-stop about different styles of yoga, learning as many Sanskrit words as I could (and tattooing one of them on my arm), teaching 6 classes per week and taking an additional 5 classes on my own at the delicious studio in Las Vegas which quickly became my sanctuary and place of refuge.
I filled a notebook full of cues I had picked up from other instructors along with different flows and poses all drawn out with stick figures. I loved to teach yoga each morning and couldn’t wait for my own practice at the studio in the evenings.
That mindset worked for awhile but eventually always trying to push myself to my absolute breaking point to impress others… well, broke me.
One of the core principles of yoga is to let go of your ego. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Our ego is typically what drives us to attempt ridiculous feats of strength when we know damn well that our body isn’t ready for it. Ego is what pushes us to run that extra mile when that little voice inside of our head warns us that our knees just don’t feel quite right today but we ignore it and end up injured. Yoga reminds us to let go of our ego, listen to our body, and ignore what everybody else is doing. After all, our fitness journey isn’t for anybody else but ourselves, right? Right!
You know what is even better than the benefit of enhanced proprioception? Not being able to narcissistically stare at yourself in the mirror (guilty as charged) or having the ability to criticize your reflection (also guilty) during your workout, neither of which are fruitful and both of which are huge distractions.
The mirror is not only unnecessary, but it can be a hindrance; no mirror means…
This means that not only are you are not allowed to judge anybody else in that room but you also aren’t allowed to judge yourself.
It doesn’t matter what your neighbor is doing, what your ego wants you to do, what your body did yesterday, or even what it may do tomorrow – it’s about what is best for it, you and only you, right now in this moment.
I operated on the sole belief that more was always better. More kickboxing, more running, more lifting, more, more, more, go, go, go. I was such a busy little bee that I never slowed down enough to turn my awareness inward.
When I started practicing yoga – closing my eyes, listening to my breath, moving slowly but with intention – I noticed I was chronically exhausted, sore, and stressed out.
I never had a chance to notice those things before because I continuously buried all of my internal chaos with more activity.
Food for thought: when is the last time you allowed yourself silence, listening to and focusing on only your breath for an extended period of time? (And no, sleeping doesn’t count.) This silence and internal focus will bring all sorts of things to the surface. You may become aware that your body is exhausted, you’re emotionally drained, your joints are sore, and/or your mind is cluttered – all factors which can be quite detrimental to our health, but how can you fix it if you aren’t even aware that those things are going on?
Yoga is wonderful at uncovering what is going on at a deeper level.
Yoga has taught me that you don’t always have to go balls-out. Although my favorite styles of yoga are Ashtanga and other aggressive Power Flow types of classes, there are times when that isn’t what my body needs and now I’m quick to take a Restorative class or a Level 1 class when I need it.
You will get much more benefit out of listening to your body and bringing it down a notch when need be than you would if you continued to force it.
|One of my fave studios: Centered City Yoga in Salt Lake City
I’d like to encourage you to take some yoga – there are a ton of different styles all with varying intensity so try a few to find one that works best for your body and personality.
Indulge and go to a specialized yoga studio – not the gym! For the most part (and there are exceptions) the instructors are much more educated and knowledgeable and can give you the personal attention that you’ll need.