I Bend so I Don’t Break: my yoga “Ah-HA!” moment and tips for getting started

I Bend so I Don’t Break: my yoga “Ah-ha!” moment and tips for getting started with your own practice. 

I bend over backwards on the reg. 

No, literally, I bend over backwards daily. 

I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga for over 6 years now. After practically being forced into it at work one day, I fell backasswards into a passionate love affair with all things yoga.

At the risk of sounding like one of those weirdo yoga chicks I have to admit…

I am totally that weirdo yoga chick.

The skin on the balls of my feet is regularly scruffed up from obscene amounts of Surya Namaskar A and (my favorite) B. I sniff lavendar oil for funsies. I get a floaty feeling during Savasana that I can only assume rivals some of the best/worst narcotics out there. Our living room is my personal gymnasium, one of which you can almost certainly find me upside-down in or twisted into a precarious shape that even makes the dogs nervous. 

I can’t get enough.

A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law asked me what I liked so much about yoga. I stuttered a bit as I tried to get as many words out as possible all at the same time. It sounded a little like this:

“It… I… my life… it changed it…”

and then I collected myself and suavely summed it up with this semi-alarming doozie.

“I’ve had some life changing experiences on my mat.”

Note: I’m pretty sure that this scared him a bit, as only one of his eyebrows raised and he politely mumbled, “uh-hmmmmm.” 

I was being truthful. 

The yoga moment that stands out the most for me (well, aside from the ultra-hairy guy in a speedo thong in Bikram in front of me, nonchalantly relaxing in a forward fold) was when I was living in Las Vegas and going through an extremely challenging time in my personal life. I sought daily refuge at the local yoga studio. 

Something about the calmness there and the smell – sandalwood and lavendar – brought me so much peace. There are no mirrors in yoga studios which make it so non-judgmental, and that is exactly what I needed at the time. 

I had a lovely instructor – many, in fact, but one in particular named Susan – that I looked forward to seeing every Thursday. One particular Thursday night in 2009 I entered the studio during emotional Defcon 1. The instructor focused the practice that night on Isvara Pranidhana, which is one of the five niyamas and loosely translates to ‘surrender to a higher source’. 

Of course I was familiar with the yamas and niyamas but something about that night, during that practice, with that focus, and those poses… 

it caused a breakthrough.

No, no. It caused the breakthrough. 

I laid on my mat during Savasana, and instead of my peaceful magic-carpet-ride type of feeling that final relaxation always brought me, I silently cried. Cried for the entire 7 minutes, because I knew exactly what had gone wrong and what I needed to do, and scared because I knew everything was about to change. (And it did.) 

Heavy, right? I know, but I’m not done. 

You see, I had been clinging. Desperately clinging to things that simply couldn’t be, similar to a frazzled cartoon cat stuck up on the curtains, holding on for dear life.

It took my tuning out all of the noise and chaos, while moving my body into unfamiliar and awkward positions, all with an instructor repeating “surrender… surrender…”, for the lightbulb to turn on and when it did, suddenly everything shifted. Things that had been mentally stuck for so long were suddenly on the move. 

I will never forget that moment – partially because it’s tattooed on the inside of my right forearm in Sanskrit to forever remind me, but also because it quite simply changed the course of my life. 

I saw a t-shirt online the other day that summed all of this up wonderfully:

“I bend so that I don’t break.” 

How beautifully perfect is that?! I am convinced that Thursday’s bending prevented my breakage. 

It’s one thing to hit the gym, blast music into your ears and lift heavy weights. It’s another entirely to force yourself to turn off the music, block out all of the distractions and tune inwards, focusing only on exactly how your body feels while it moves and where you’re at mentally.

Yoga is brutally honest that way and dishes up a different perspective. It bends us, stretches us, places us upside-down and strengthens us on an entirely unique level.  

Of course, if all of that is a bit much for you it’s cool; do yoga for the mobility so you can smash more weights. 

New to yoga? I have some tips for you:

Go to a studio

A yoga studio is night-and-day different from your local gym classes. The instructors are much more qualified, the classes are more intimate so you’ll get more individualized attention, and the atmosphere is just better. 

Take the Beginners Class

Does “Beginner Level One” sound as cool as “Advanced Yogi Acrobat”? No. But who cares. Go to the Beginner class first. Every yoga studio offers either a Beginners Intro to Yoga class or a Basic Level One class. Start there. 

Get a mat

Invest in a good sticky mat. Most studios provide mats for free or a nominal fee, but they usually aren’t the best and a mat is kinda personal. My favorite mats are Jade Yoga Mats. 

“I’m new!”

Arrive a few minutes early to acquaint yourself with the space and to introduce yourself to the instructor. Let him/her know that you are new and make them aware of any limitations you may have. If you have a serious back/knee/elbow issue, please tell them about it so that they know how to accommodate you. If you don’t speak up, then you aren’t allowed to be irritated that the instructor didn’t help you work around your ailment. As a teacher, I can tell you this is the most frustrating thing ever. We want you to have an excellent practice! 

Go more than once

You need to experience something at least five times before you are allowed to judge it. Taking one class isn’t giving yoga a fair shot. I hated my first yoga class! Five times. That is the rule. 

Be patient

Doing cool tricks like arm balances and inversions is fun, but that stuff takes time and it really isn’t the point. The purpose is to yoke your mind and body. Take it slow. No ego.
Yes, my neighbors think I’m nuts.

Wear proper clothing

Do not wear clothing that requires frequent adjusting! That baggy loosey-goosey t-shirt will absolutely float up over your face every time you invert. Those super cute low-rise pants will totally show your buttcrack every time you bend over, which will result in pulling up your pants and pulling down your shirt approximately every 7 seconds. Annoying! 

No cash, no babysitter? No problemo!

Check out They do a free trial and you stream the classes online from some of the best instructors out there. You can filter the classes to choose everything from duration to which level you are at. YogaGlo is superior to yoga DVDs because YogaGlo allows for easy progression or regression when you need it. After all, every day our body feels different. Some days I need something a bit stronger, where other days I need to tone it down. 

Last, it always kills me when people say to me, “Yoga is boring.” 
Um… fun fact: there are a ton of completely different styles of yoga. Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Rocket, Forrest, Hatha, Restorative, Kundalini, the list goes on and there is no way that you have tried them all.

Personally I love more athletic styles of yoga such as Vinyasa Power Flows and Ashtanga, but there are definitely styles I don’t care for. It’s totally individual. Try a few styles and go to a wide variety of instructors, because you are bound to enjoy some and not care so much for others. I have picked up excellent tips and cues that have helped my practice from just about every instructor I have been to.
Do you go to yoga? What kind do you like best? 
Do you have recommendations for a wonderful studio in your area? Please share below!
Go get your Om on and then drop me a line below about what you thought of it! 


The exclusive Beauty Lies in Strength mala bracelets are coming soon! Make sure to sign up for email updates in the upper righthand corner to stay updated! 

Also check out: Beyond the Mat – 5 New Reasons to Take Yoga (stretching and relaxing not included)

You Can’t Be Good at Yoga, and Other Things You Need to Know Before Starting to Practice


  • Reply
    April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I did some generic yoga classes at my gym 2 years ago but started going to beginners yoga at a local studio (got my mom & i 10 & 15 class groupon deal!) and enjoy it SO much. I find myself wanting to attempt poses on my own at home all the time. Both my mom and i have very bad wrists but the teacher has been showing us ways to try to strengthen around it and making sure to try to focus the weight across the index/hand knuckle instead of all the wrist esp during downward facing dog, and pulling the shoulders the right way which the yoga teacher at the gym never really helped me with (just told me to to child's pose if I had pain). I can't recommend Shri Yoga in Wyomissing enough. Pam is a great beginner teacher and keeps it fun, there is not judgement.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    This is the kick in the pants I needed to hear to try a serious studio instead of my gym substitute. I started doing BodyFlow at Gold's last fall, and it has REALLY helped on my off days from lifting, but I think I am ready to try something without the loud music. Definitely need to focus more on my intentional de-stressing activities in this busy season of life! Thanks, Jen!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    April 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Hey Dani,
    this is awesome! Groupon has been cranking out some killer deals to amazing studios all across the country. I'm so glad that you got in on one of those!

    Also, great tip from your instructor regarding weight distribution in your hands. It's a common mistake and that should make a big difference for you.

    If I'm ever in Wyoming, I'll be sure to swing in to Shri Yoga! Thanks for your input!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    April 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Ahhh, I love Body Flow! So much fun!

    But you're right, you will absolutely relish in the difference between gym yoga and studio yoga. A studio is just a luxurious treat, and it's nice to practice without the sound of weights being dropped or loud chatter.

    Enjoy! Let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    this is so funny — i am developing an obsession with the smell of lavender oil, probably because i so associate it with the serenity and empowerment i feel from yoga. i loved to read that you sniff it for "funsies"! also, this is a great article. i am so thankful that yoga is becoming more and more of a presence in my life, too.

  • Reply
    Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength
    April 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I am dying to do yoga and have been really bad about finding a class that fits in my schedule. Once SFG is over I'm going to try again!!! 🙂 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    April 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Yoga would be such an awesome addition to your already kick-butt training! I think you'd see a lot of really nice carryover!

    I have a friend that teaches in your area! I'll pm you the details!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    April 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Yes, exactly! Each time I sniff lavender I think of Savasana and the wonderful feeling that accompanies it.

    Namaste, friend!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    I've been wanting to try yoga for quite a while now but never actually got myself to start. Never knew where to start and where to go for it.
    Tried it once at home with a home video I found on youtube lol I really enjoyed it though.
    I'm going to use your post to inspire me to get off my butt and start

  • Reply
    Hazel Carrillo
    May 20, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Yoga is a way of life, shall we say it is also the secret of youth. It could be our natural treatment to certain health problem we may experience. Yoga is good for both our mind and body, though it requires some practice, but still we can be used to it.

  • Reply
    Rob M
    April 16, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I tried my first class just last week and I love it. It took me along time to get to it but I am super glad I did finally jump in. Could you suggest some websites that explain different types. There seems like there are so many and I am wondering what is the difference and which would be good for me. Thanks.

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