When talking to a friend over the weekend, he mentioned that he had been going to yoga a lot recently and that he, his wife, and his new baby were all better off because of it. He is debating taking the teacher training at CorePower (which, of course, I gushed about…not biased at all seeing as that’s where I teach), and he wanted to know if it deepened or weakened my practice. That question put the fire under me to write this post that has been sitting patiently in my brain until now: WHY YOGA?
For me personally, I practice yoga because…..actually, let’s back up. A little history with why I started yoga to begin with, why I continued with yoga, and why I am waking up to practice tomorrow morning despite writing this post well past midnight.
I took my first yoga class at CorePower Yoga (or CPY) back in March 2009. As an understatement, I’ll say that I was not hooked right away. This was not love at first pose. I, in fact, was only there because my friend Silvia invited me and I have a hard time turning things down. Plus I think Silvia is cool and I wanted to be cool too. Combine that with the fact that my sister had already been practicing yoga for a few years and was chirping at me to get in the studio ASAP!!! Like most things Michelle insists that I will like if I just freaking try it already, I resist as much as humanly possible, inevitably give in, and invariably fall in love with said suggestion. It’s a fun cycle. For me, anyway. Not sure about her sisterly interpretation. :)
Off I went to yoga class. And it was honestly pretty terrible. I won’t say I hated it, but I definitely did not enjoy it. But Silvia kept inviting me to different yoga studios around PB and it became a little bit of a Saturday morning outing for us and a few others. I didn’t go consistently, but I went….semi-regularly. At the time, I knew I had to do something active and I couldn’t find an adult dance studio that I liked. That’s what I really wanted to do was dance. I loved my adult jazz class that I grew up with (started sneaking in when I was 12 despite the minimum age being 13), but there was simply no San Diego equivalent to the amazing Tim Hill’s class. So I persisted with this yoga thing, kind of half-heartedly because I didn’t feel I had many other options.
Why did I initially get turned off by yoga? The answer I told myself: I sucked at it. And I hated that I sucked at it. In general, I can pick things up pretty damn quickly. I take it for granted that typically (outside of sports), if I focus on something for a relatively short amount of time, I’m decent at it. Yoga was not one of those things. I was sore, I was out of shape, I was falling over, I was out of breath, I was in my head and I was “bad” at it. I did not like going in, time and time again, feeling like I sucked. To add insult to injury, I didn’t even improve right away! I didn’t feel comfortable in a yoga studio for about a year. A year!
But I kept going. A big reason is that there is a ton of free yoga in San Diego, and who doesn’t like free stuff? I was bouncing around studios, trying out free week trials and figuring out what I liked/didn’t like about various yoga studios. This one was too hot, this one too cold. This one had great class times, but a bad location. That one had a great location, but crappy teachers. This one was not enough of a workout, that one left me feeling like I ran a marathon. Me being the Goldilocks in this situation, CorePower was just right. I like to call it the Starbucks of yoga. It’s commercialized, but it’s a top-notch, consistent product. There’s a lot to be said for that. Plus I loved the format: we did sit ups in the middle of class, it was heated but not ridiculous, there were classes all the time, and so many locations that I could drive to four studios within ten minutes of my house. They have beautiful locker rooms with hairspray and tampons always stocked….they know their audience. I decided to become a member a full year after that first class. As you may remember, 2010 was a big year for me trying to finally take care of myself and not be such a doofus anymore about my health.
As I found out along the way, yoga is not something you can suck at. Turns out the answer I told myself years ago (“I sucked at it”) isn’t actually the true one. The true answer is that I was not ready to embrace yoga, or to embrace change in my life. If you compare my yoga timeline to my food/nutrition/lifestyle timeline, yoga came first. Well, technically the chiropractor came first, but yoga was a close second. :) And most importantly, yoga has stuck around the longest. I think it was inevitable that I stuck with it. It almost wasn’t even a choice. I think my ego told myself that I had to keep going in order to “get better” at it. The reality is that my body needed it, my spirit needed it, and the universe used my ego as the carrot to keep me going back. Honestly, I’m so grateful that I have yoga now in my life, that I don’t care why I kept going. I’m just glad that I did.
Being the person I am, I took CPY by the horns once I got there. I enrolled in a few boot camps, I started cleaning as a trade to get free yoga all the time, I became pretty immersed in the culture and actually starting enjoying myself. I had a few cathartic moments on the mat and was finally hooked. Pretty soon, everyone was trying to talk me into teacher training. I had zero intentions of becoming a yoga teacher. I’m still not 100% sure why I decided to do it. However it happened, in the fall of 2011, I found myself enrolled in a 200-hour teacher training program for an activity I had only taken seriously for less than two years. I was in way over my head.
Teacher training is a 8 week format at CPY. That’s 200 hours to get done in 8 weeks. I was extremely naive about how quickly I could become trained. Even in a 10 week format, that’s an extra 20 hours a week to your normal routine! Luckily (?), CPY makes you do what is called an “extensions” program once you are done with the first 8 weeks, which meant I then had an additional 4 weeks to get more teaching practice in, and to finalize my hours. Although teacher training was a grueling process, it was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life. It changed how I approach my mat, each of my postures, my breath, my life. That was the one life-changing event where yoga went from a task I enjoyed to an activity that affected my mind-body-spirit health. There is SO MUCH to learn and teach about yoga that cannot be contained in this blog, but suffice to say that it truly changed my life. I now teach twice a week and try to practice three times a week, although I don’t always hit that mark.
One of my fellow UCers once said to me that they are pursuing this holistic lifestyle as a treatment method because they prefer meditation, not medication. That sums up where I am with yoga today. Yoga has introduced me to meditation, retreats at the Chopra Center, regular therapeutic massage, and I know that I would still be on my medication if not for yoga. The short answer I regularly give people when they ask why I practice yoga is that it allows me to breathe. If only for one hour, I allow myself to shut up, breathe, meditate in motion, and relax. There is incalculable benefit for deep breathing all on its own! Yoga inspires me, forces me, enables me to keep breathing. Today, that’s my why.
ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER
I found this band….or actually, Spotify thought I would like this band (cocky jerks!), called Lake Street Dive…and Spotify was right. I like them. They can get a little repetitive, but the lead singer has a really cool Alabama Shakes meets Adele thing going for her. Two great people to rip off if you ask me. I was listening to their studio album, but then Jon found this fun video of them singing Jackson 5 live and I was sold. Check it out!