Updated: Aug 18
The Story of My Yoga Journey
I wish I was into it yoga so much sooner, but I acknowledge that the person I was a few years ago wasn't up for it. I created a lot of excuses for not wanting to do yoga. I said that yoga was too slow for me, for example, which is funny to me now since I have to slow things down in life sometimes. Or I thought it was too serious, which I realize now was my misinterpretation of being in a state of concentration. Well, whatever reasons I had to not enjoy yoga are totally obsolete now. Yoga is such a major part of my fitness and wellness journey today.
I don't do yoga at a gym if I have a choice.
Admittedly I didn't fall in love with yoga right away. The first yoga class I took was at a gym. It may be fine for other people, but I found that the gym didn't hold space that felt right for me. Yoga classes at gyms are typically done in a studio room that is shared among different types of group classes. What threw me off right away was the energy in the room and energies of those whom I met in passing. The students from the class before yoga had just finished taking a high intensity cardio class, and I'm over here trying to be in a more relaxed and mindful state of being. Secondly, I couldn't get past the thought of how dirty the floors probably were. Most of the group classes at the gym are taught with shoes on (e.g. Zumba, boot camp, kickboxing). I was also distracted by all the stuff to look at! I found that I couldn't keep my mind on the mat. There's equipment, people working out on equipment, the TVs on the equipment, etc. Granted, this was also during a time when I didn't know how to meditate or shut things out of my head. I decided after that class that I didn't like yoga, and it wasn't my thing.
I fell in love with yoga because of Justin Timberlake.
I have my good friend, Keshia Eleazar, to thank for the most part. After she finished her hours and became a certified yoga instructor in 2016, she invited me and our other girlfriends to a free class at a local studio. It had been several years since I had taken that one yoga class at the gym, so I thought I might as well give it another go. Keshia was not only a natural, but she was also super engaging and made the class incredibly fun. This particular studio let the instructors play whatever music they wanted, and she created THE BEST playlist. I couldn't believe that I was doing yoga to Justin Timberlake and e-40. Surprisingly I felt like I was in my element. I was feeling the jams, shared some laughs with my friends, and yet still was focused throughout the flow.
There wasn't a better time to get into yoga than that moment. I had just started understanding what stillness meant, getting into meditation, and learning more about mindfulness practices. Furthermore, being in a yoga studio instead of a gym made such a huge difference to me. A yoga studio holds the right space. The yoga studio that Keshia held her class was cute and quaint, dimly lit, and had incense burning in the background. I felt so compelled after Keshia's class to find a studio that resonated with me. I found Xplore Yoga SJ. I got the unlimited 4 week package to try out the different classes, and I was hooked. I went to class almost everyday. When my trial package was done, I signed up for the yearly membership.
"At the gym, you strive for your body to look and be a certain way. In yoga, you need to surrender to your body." - Dr. Michael Athanas
This quote is from one of the yoga instructors at Xplore Yoga SJ during his Moon Sequence/modified Ashtanga class. It has stuck with me ever since because it couldn't be any more true! Yoga helped me connect with my body in such a deeper way. I definitely size myself up with other people when I'm at the gym, but in yoga class I only see myself in the mirror. All levels are embraced, and we share nothing but loving and supporting energy for each other in the room. In being more connected with my body, it means trying everything but not forcing asanas that don't feel good that day. Maybe I was able to do a pose yesterday but couldn't do it today and that's totally OK. Whatever outcome was on the mat today is let it go and released.
In addition to yoga being this spiritual experience and mindfulness practice for me, yoga has elevated my body to a whole new level. I was never able to do the splits in my whole life and now I can. It's so wild! Just for fun, I decided to run a race about 11 months after I had signed up for a membership at Xplore Yoga SJ. I definitely wasn't prepared for it nor ran or done any intensive cardio the whole time I was doing yoga. I actually ran my best time, and I didn't have any shin splints during the run or soreness the next day. I'm so much stronger as well. I had such a weak upper body when I first started, but I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to do arm balances - let alone solid chaturangas. I'm also working on inversions, which has helped me face my fears of falling both literally and figuratively. It does help that the floors at Xplore Yoga SJ are padded though. In any case, yoga has been such an imperative part of my wellness journey. I highly recommend to incorporate yoga into your life not only for personal development but for fitness performance.