I’m naturally pretty athletic and typically adapt quickly when it comes to fitness. Even if it’s something I don’t typically do, like rowing or swimming, I can grab a hang of it pretty fast. But when it came to yoga, I struggled…big time. Not only was I very inflexible (tight hamstrings and hips from running) but I felt so out-of-place in a room where people looked so graceful and strong. I fell every time I tried a balance post. I distinctly remember looking around and copying other people’s poses because I had no idea what I was doing. It was a very humbling experience for me to start something at the very beginning and be a complete novice. An experience I’m so grateful to have had.
I first discovered yoga while I was in a state of post-marathon depression (yes, it’s real and I’m trying to prepare for it next month). I was battling a few minor injuries and needed a break from pounding pavement. At the suggestion of a few friends I decided to try a yoga studio near campus. I had done yoga a few times during marathon training but only after long runs. At the time, I thought of it as just stretching and relaxing and I honestly NEVER thought I would like it. I mean, please, it’s not a “real workout…” (<– I laugh at that now)
The studio I attended (and currently attend) is a Baptiste studio. What’s Baptiste?
The Baptiste Yoga™ practice and programs are designed to empower you with the focus, training and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice and active self inquiry are used as tools of transformation – encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, create authenticity, confidence and new possibilities.
Visit: http://www.baronbaptiste.com to read more.
Really fast…my take on Baptiste: It is a mentally and physically challenging hot vinyasa flow class. There’s no music (except sometimes at the end during savasana) and the instructors emphasize listening to your body and making the practice personal. If that means taking it easy that’s fine, but more often than not they will encourage yogis to reach their full potential and go a little deeper into a pose or try an inversion without fear of falling. Every class is a fast paced flow class (with a lot of vinyasas!) and ends with a few minutes of deep stretching on the mat before final relaxation.
Yoga classes are NOT cheap, especially on a college student’s budget. But week after week it was something I very happily paid for. My mat became a place of comfort and relaxation. It (temporarily) replaced the pavement. I wasn’t afraid to try new poses and I got over the fear of embarrassment very fast. Instead of feeling self-conscious in a room of experienced yogis, I started admiring their practice and progression, as well as my own. The first time I landed crow I practically screamed I was so excited. I continued to relish in my noticeable improvements as well as less noticeable progressions like holding a balancing pose for a few seconds longer or taking a deeper backbend than normal. Some people might not notice those changes, but it showed me that months of work paid off. It showed me that change happens when I’m not afraid of falling. It showed me that the best change happens slowly over time…that I may not see it now, but my work will pay off.
For a good month yoga was my main form of exercise. There was no running and very little weight lifting due to injuries. But not once did I ever feel “out of shape,” in fact, I felt stronger than ever. I had muscles (YES, yoga is a workout, people!) and just felt more confident all around. I know it’s a big statement to say that yoga got me out of a funk, but it did. Even more, when I returned to running my body felt great. Not only did I increase my flexibility and maintain my leg muscle, but I was mentally stronger. I embraced stillness, learned to really listen to my breath, let go of the idea of perfection and practiced with intention. Running can become so mindless sometimes (don’t think, just run) so purposely acting and moving with intent was something new.
Even now that I’m consistently running I still prioritize my yoga practice. While nothing will ever replace my love of running or the feeling of satisfaction post run, yoga fulfills other needs. It gives me a space to try new things, challenge my comfort zone and release emotions. For me, yoga is an ideal complement to running and I’ve found my greatest strength when I practice both consistently. I’m grateful to have had such a positive experience with yoga and encourage others to try, without fear of falling (!!), because you may just discover a passion on the other side.
What type of yoga do you practice? When I’m at school I attend the Baptiste studio, when I’m home I attend a traditional full-service yoga studio.
What’s your favorite posture or sequence? Triangle is my favorite pose.